Water bill increases explained

The Water Authority of the Cayman Islands has issued a statement in response to questions raised by members of the public regarding reasons for increases on their bills, particularly in January of this year.

One owner of a real estate company on the Island said he had no idea why some of his bills were higher, in addition to showing varying numbers of days on which the meter was tallied.

“Some properties have bills for 42 days, some for 30 and then some for 28 and 29,” said David Ling. “Some bills jumped 40 per cent, and one [bill for a building] that was vacant, with all the pipes locked, increased by 30 cents,” he said.

Mr. Ling said that in discussions about his concerns with the Water Authority, he was told that “January is always the highest month,” and that the bills he had been issued represented only usage.

Water Authority Customer Service Manager Joanna Welcome-Martinez said that bills have three components: usage, energy adjustment and meter rental. She said the usage is the main component of each customer’s bill and will reflect a customer’s consumption pattern, including any changes. “The usage would be for the period the meter was read.”

She said energy adjustment is a charge that varies monthly because it is calculated based on the electricity cost associated with producing the water being consumed. Finally, the meter rental charge is fixed at a rate of $5 per 3/4 inch per month.

With regard to higher January bills, Mrs. Welcome-Martinez said, the fluctuation of such bills could be threefold. She explained that, “Bills for the month of December are for a shorter meter reading period versus those of January to avoid the Christmas and New Year’s rush, Energy adjustment was also higher in January than in December, and consumption may just have been greater during the season.”

She said a bill for an inactive account could show an increase if there was a late payment in the previous period or if there was an outstanding balance. “Penalties are calculated at 1.5 per cent of the outstanding balance and all bills are due on the 21st of each month.”

Mrs. Welcome-Martinez said billing periods do not vary, as customers receive their bills monthly. However, what did change, she said, was the meter reading period. Even though there are meter reading schedules, the dates can vary due to factors such as public holidays, weather or accessibility.

“The easiest way to understand the need for the changes in meter reading schedules is to look at the calendars for the month of December 2010, January 2011 and February 2011 and note the business days.

It can clearly be seen that December has less business days than January…It is our aim to schedule meter readings of all customer accounts as much as possible during working days.

“If the number of days in the meter reading period for January are more than December or February, and the consumption pattern for the customer is consistent with previous monthly usage, then just on that basis alone, the January bill would be higher,” said Mrs. Welcome-Martinez.