Springtime is upon us and the watering season is near.

With the growing season also comes “growing” concern over higher water bills. The City of Duncanville Utility Billing Department understands those concerns and wants to help you understand how they read your water meters and bill you.

The city reads all the water meters in town in four cycles (approximately 3250 meters each cycle). The reading date appears on your bill each month. Your water meter is read at approximately the same time each month. You can then read your own meter during that time period and obtain an approximate reading that should match (depending on when it is read versus when you read it) your billing amount for water.

The city meter readers use a hand-held device called a Roadrunner to record the readings from each meter. The only information available to the meter reader, from the Roadrunner, is the address and meter number. No readings from previous months are available for viewing from the hand-held units. The Roadrunner does store the information from previous months, but will not display it to the meter readers.

After the reader has entered the numbers from the water meter the Roadrunner will research them. If the entered numbers are outside of a preset hi/lo range, the Roadrunner will emit a warning tone. The reader will then have to re-enter not only the reading but also the meter serial number, in case a mistake was made in entering the meter reading the first attempt. If the numbers are largely outside the normal range, the readers will return and read it again to determine if there is a problem with the meter, a possible leak at the property, or an error with the reading.

“Our meter readers rotate books within the cycles of the city,” says Utility Account Manager Jill Stottlemire . “We do this more to protect our readers from becoming bored with the task of reading over 13,000 meters monthly. It also enables us to utilize this switching as a check and balance for the customer. What is meant by that is for example, a meter reader reads a meter wrong and our hi/lo exceptions don’t detect it, the reader the next month can catch the error and the department can resolve the matter quickly.” Stottlemire went on to say that this also would disallow any reader from being able to keep up with water usage habits and possibly being able to estimate readings.

“It would be impossible to estimate readings in the field,” Stottlemire said. “If readings were estimated, then we could be off hundreds of thousands of gallons and it would be readily evident.” For that reason, we make every effort to read the meter accurately the first time, which in turn saves time and money.

“One of our main concerns as we get into the spring and summer months is safety.” Stottlemire said. “Our reader’s job is to take the reading on the meter and it’s difficult when in order to do it he has to put himself/herself in jeopardy.” Meters must be free of shrubs, bushes, vehicles and other encumbrances in order to be read. Stottlemire goes on to state. “Sure, it looks nice to have decorations to cover the meter box, but put yourself in the place of the reader. The meter box is cool and moist and can harbor anything from poisonous spiders to venomous snakes and even bees and wasps. If a meter is unreadable, the readers will note the problem and go back on the rereads, which occur during the following days to make whatever corrections necessary so that the meter can be read.

Meter readers have also found that meter boxes that have been cleaned out one month are covered again the next month. This can be due to heavy rains or watering which can cause dirt and other debris to flow back into the box.

Some citizens have expressed concern over water bills that have remained constant, no matter if they are out of town. The city does have a minimum usage charge of $13.00 for 0 to1000 gallons. If you never use over 1000 gallons in a month, then you will never go over the $13.00 charge for water.

Not only can irrigation cause a water bill to go up. Leaky faucets, toilets and pipes can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Leaking toilet tanks can waste as much as 200 gallons per day.

The Utility Billing Department offers a few tips to check for leaking fixtures and pipes:

  • Shut off all water faucets in and outside the house. There is a small pinwheel, triangle, or circle on your meter register; this is the low flow indicator. Check and see if it is moving when all of the faucets are turned off. If it is moving, then you know you have a leak. This may need to be checked several times, as toilets, faucets and lawn sprinklers do not necessarily leak all the time.
  • A toilet leak may not occur until the water drains to a certain height in the tank. Add some food coloring to the water in the tank and let it sit for a half-hour. Then check the bowl to see if the colored water has leaked into the bowl.
  • If your faucets have old gaskets, it can take a lot of pressure to shut it off fully. With different people using the faucet, it may not always be completely shut off.
  • Sprinkler heads can sometime stay open and leak water onto the lawn. Each sprinkler head uses between 3 and 5 gallons per minute. A station on a sprinkler system could possibly leak as much as 90 gallons per minute depending on several factors. That can add up very quickly on your bill.

These are just a few suggestions to look for water loss first. If you will check these things first, it may save both you and the City time and money. Even though you may not visibly see the leak or your meter moving, that does not mean you do not have a leak. Any leak or drip should be fixed immediately.

If you have any concerns about your bills, or need water conservation information, contact the Utility Billing Department at 972-780-5010. Or look online at www.duncanville.com. On the website you will find the Utility Services Department and information regarding your water bill, water service and water conservation.