If customers make repairs within 10 days, the city gives them a break on the water they didn't use

TIGARD - The Intergovernmental Water Board got a lesson Jan. 9 on the policies that determine how water customers can get credits for leaks that inadvertently run up their water bills.

In one recent case, the owner left his property, which was being sold, and moved to California. When he returned months later, he discovered a water leak from a broken 2-inch pipe that left him with a $2,261.07 bill when he had been expecting a final bill of around $100.

In December, board members asked staff to look into the issue, and John Goodrich, Tigard's water quality/supply supervisor, reviewed city policies at the January meeting.

'A majority of the credit-for-leak claims are processed through utility billing without direct IWB approval,' Goodrich wrote in a memo to the board. 'The current policy is that credit-for-leaks amounts exceeding $500 shall be required to be approved by the IWB. Under this policy, the average number of credit-for-leak claims presented to the IWB (is) only one or two per month.'

In fiscal year 2004-05, 240 accounts received a total of $16,985.35 in credits; in 2005-06, 182 accounts received $18,261.98; and in 2006-07, 191 accounts received $22,454.53, with one account receiving a $3,980.08 credit.

'For the last three years, the total amount credited equals 613 accounts for $57,701.86,' Goodrich said. 'The three-year average indicates approximately 34 accounts per billing cycle (which is every two months) at $94 per account, which is approximately .2 percent of the total accounts currently within the Tigard water-service area.'

In reviewing policies in other cities, Tualatin requires repairs within 30 days of discovery of the leak, Portland requires repairs to be started within 30 days of notification or discovery, and Beaverton requires repairs within two billing cycles.

Lake Oswego requires repairs within 14 days, and the Tualatin Valley Water District requires repairs within 30 days of discovery.

In the Tigard water-service area, repairs must be made within 10 days of discovery.

In Tigard, credits are calculated by multiplying the wholesale water markup by the estimated size of the leak.

'The estimated size of the leak is calculated based on the difference between usage during the leak and the average usage in previous years,' Goodrich said. 'The application to the city for the credit must be in writing and must include proof the leak was fixed within 10 days of discovery.'

For more information, contact Goodrich at 503-718-2609.

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