What with the new higher water rates for San Francisco set for Tuesday, July 1, 2008, I thought it’d be useful to describe how your water bill is calculated by the SFPUC, and demonstrate how easily your water bill could double or triple due to a running toilet or two.

An SFPUC water bill is made of three parts: 1) water service charges, 2) water consumption charges, and 3) wastewater collection and treatment charges.

First, you’ve got a flat service charge based on the size of your building-wide master meter.
For example, if your meter is 1 1/2 in. in size, you’ll have a bi-monthly service charge of \$24.60, plus perhaps some additional fees depending on your type of account and the size of your building.  As in the case of Figure 1., you can see a service charge of \$42.30, which was the April of ’07 charge for a 1 1/2 in. meter plus some other hidden fees involving I don’t know what, at least I think.  Maybe it’s a mistake that they charged that much.

Your total bill is calculated in terms of units used, where a unit is defined as 748 gallons.  (For now, we’re going to use new July 1, 2008 prices in all calculations.)

Second, you’re billed for water consumption: you’re billed at \$2.87 for all units used. This is simple.  If you use 100 units, you’ll pay \$287 across the board (100 x \$2.87).

Third, you’re billed for wastewater collection and treatment charges, which is where the tiered rates kick in, and for apartment buildings there’s a flow factor of 95%.  I’ll explain what this means momentarily.

But let’s talk tiered rate unit usage first.  The T1 (‘T’ stands for “tier”) rate is \$3.42 per unit used for the 1st 3 discharge units per dwelling unit per month. Let’s deconstruct this statement.  A discharge unit is defined as 748 gallons of water, or 100 cubic feet of water.  If you’ve got 10 dwelling unit, aka apartments, you’re billed \$3.42 per unit (748 gallons) for each of the first 30 dwelling units (3 units per unit x 10), for a total of \$102.60.  If you got above 3 units of water per dwelling unit, then you’ll pay the T2 \$8.55 per unit price for the next 2 discharge units per dwelling unit per month, followed by the T3 \$9.77 per unit price for all additional discharge units per dwelling unit per month.

According to the SFPUC, the average SF household uses 7 units per month, which is equal to 5236 gallons. With a bi-monthly billing cycle, this would double – 14 units every two months, or 10472 gallons.  This makes up 88% of all SFPUC ratepayers – which puts them into tiers one and two.  Many accounts for multiple residential buildings have a bi-monthly billing cycle in San Francisco, that is, landlords receive their bills every two months because their meter is read by the SFPUC every two months.  Let’s calculate the average household usage using the numbers above, looking at Figure 1.

• Let’s assume there are 20 units, as in Figure 1.  The service charge is \$50.20, which includes any additional service fees, for a 1 1/2 in. meter, let’s say. I’m not sure this is right, but I know it’s pretty close.
• With water consumption charges at \$2.87 per unit of water used, that would be 140 units (7 x 20) x \$2.87, which equals \$401.80.
• Okay, so let’s look at the wastewater side of things.  But first, enter “flow factor”, which for multiple residential buildings in San Francisco is 95% (for single family homes, it’s 90%).  This basically means that 95% of the wastewater is flowed back through the wastewater line to be treated and collected, while 5% is treated (I don’t know exactly what the process entails, but obviously you can’t flow directly from the toilet to a car wash) to be used in car washes or moved to irrigation areas in the Bay Area.  So the landlord or the property manager only pays for 95% of the wastewater.  Hence, 140 units x a Flow Factor of 95% equals 133 units. The landlord or property manager only has to pay for 133 units of waterwater treamtment and collection.
• At the T1 price of \$3.42 for the first 3 discharge units per dwelling unit per month (remember that the billing cycle in bi-monthly, that brings the wastewater treatment and collection charges to \$3.42 per unit for the first 120 units, or \$3.42 x 120, which equals \$410.40.
• That leaves 13 units left over, at the T2 price of \$8.55.  13 x \$8.55 equals \$111.15.
• Okay, so the service charge (\$50.20) plus the water consumption charge (\$401.80) plus the T1 wastewater charge (\$410.40) plus the T2 wastewater charge (\$111.15) brings the total average bill for 20 dwelling units in San Francisco to \$973.55.

Disclaimer: It would probably be significantly lower than this if the 20 dwelling units were filled by mostly single professionals or couple rather than families, which is mostly the case in a city like San Francisco.  At the same time, this example is for illustration.

Now according to the SFPUC, 9 in 10 reports (and they probably receive 40 or 50 a day) of excessive water bills are due to running toilets.  I got this information from speaking with them.  I show in the last post that two toilets running for 17 days at the new water rates will bring a water bill that average around \$500 – \$700, up to \$1900 or higher.  That’s a big problem. I know because I’ve talked to property managers who deal with it fairly regularly.

Once you hit T3, you’re paying \$9.77 per unit.  Now that’s absurd, and with a negligent tenant and a running toilet, that tier can easily be reached, as we demonstrated in our first postWith an average running toilet leaking 3 gallons or so per minute, that very same running toilet is easily bleeding 5 units a day, or 500 cubic feet of water!!! Now let’s say you’re already at T3, well, you do the math.  Your toilet could easily waste \$50 per day!!!  If it was leaking 5 gallons per minute, also very common, then it’d be \$100  a day at T3!!!

Now the question is, How do you stop that problem from occurring? Well, we’ve talked to a bunch of property managers in the city, and most of them seem to take a “wait and see” approach, dealing with the problem as it arises.  It’s clear that we can no longer afford this approach.

That’s why at LeakBird we’re developing an approach, so stay tuned…as we’ll be addressing this question from all angles in future posts.

If you are interested in How You Can Increase Your Cash Flows by \$2,500.00 Every Year and Never Pay for High Water Bills Due to Your Tenants’ Running Toilets, sign up for our Free Report here.

Abendigo Reebs is the VP of Business Development for LeakBird Industries LLC in San Francisco, CA. He may be reached at 415-680-0554 or by email at ben@leakbird.com

Bookmark Me!

Related posts:

1. New SFPUC Water and Wastewater Rates in San Francisco Set for July 1st, 2008 (LeakBird) The new water rates are about to kick in in...
2. San Francisco Water Rates, Running Toilets and Property Management: Summary of My June 2008 Chat with The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) (LeakBird) I’ve written about how to calculate your San Francisco water...
3. Shocking Water Consumption & Running Toilet Leakage Facts: The Average Toilet in San Francisco Wastes \$6.83 Per Month or \$81.96 Per Year due to Running or Leaking!!! (LeakBird) In order to calculate how much your toilet wastes in...
4. High Water Bill? Know Your Typical Average Monthly Water Bill & Study Your Toilet (LeakBird) If you recently received a high water bill, there’s a...
5. The Coming Great Water Shortage — San Francisco Public Utilities Commission may have to Declare Temporary Water Rationing: Serves 2.5M Bay Area Customers (LeakBird) With all of the rain California has been receiving over...