ADA — What would you do if your average monthly water bill was $33 and suddenly skyrocketed to $1300? Would you simply accept the bill or would you dispute it?

For Rural Water District 8 resident Bill Howells, the choice was easy.

“I got this bill the other day for $1300, so I start looking into it, obviously thinking it’s a mistake,” Howells said. “But they told me that I owe them all of this money for eight years of back water.”

Howells said he received a letter from Rural Water District 8, indicating they undercharged him and everyone else on the district’s water line the past eight years, and they intend to collect all of the money owed during that time.

“Most rural water districts, I’ve found out, have two options: Either you write your usage down, or they bill you an additional three dollars a month to come out and read the meter. Basically their position is, they h aven’t read the meters, ever. They can’t give an exact time as to when they’ve read the meters. And it’s not just with me, it’s with the entire Rural Water District 8. They have meters that they can’t find. They have no idea where they are or what they are, so it’s a big mess.”

Howells said he went to RWD 8’s office to discuss the bill, and to find out if the problem extended to the previous owners of the house.

“I went to the office and said ‘First off, you’re reading a meter now, and I didn’t build the house, so how do I know this wasn’t a problem before I moved in?’ The response I got was ‘Well when the previous party moved out, we read the meter and closed out their bill.’

“I said they should keep records of that and I was assured they keep diligent records, so I asked him to prove there was a starting point and an ending point, to prove the water went through my meter. I got a call from them a few days later saying they have no records. No records of that ever being read.”

“So they tell me that I’ve been using over 8,000 gallons of water a month, and they’ve been estimating 5,961 a month, so I could see where the mistake has been made.

“Well my response was that from February 28 to May 31 is three months, not two months, so the average of the last three months I’ve used 5,500 gallons a month. They’ve been billing me for 5,961 gallons. So I go back and say ‘By your math, if we go back by seven years, and you’ve been billing me an extra 400 gallons, you actually owe me around $600.’ Their response was that I need to go to their board meeting and bring it to their attention.”

Howells said his concern isn’t with his particular bill as much as others who received a significantly larger bill who may not be able to pay.

“What are they doing to the people who can’t afford a bill like this? I can’t imagine a lot of people can just come up with $1,300 without it seriously impacting their lifestyle,” he said. “They went through and did a meter reading on the entire rural water district. Not everyone has a $1,300 water bill. I talked to my neighbor and he has a $180 water bill. ”

When contacted by the Ada Evening News, officials with RWD 8 had no comment.

Howells said it took RWD 8 three trips to his house to actually locate his water meter.

“If it’s the customer’s responsibility to read the meter, then whose meter is it? The answer is, it’s the rural water district’s meter. Well if they own the meter, they have a responsibility to keep it clean, open and accessible.”

“I wouldn’t have a problem with this if they didn’t have a big flaw in their billing. We shouldn’t have to pay that, it’s just not right.”

A Rural Water District 8 board meeting has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the RWD8 offices.

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