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In reversal, Agua SUD limits water bill adjustments for customers with leaks

This article appeared in the March 10 issue of the Progress Times.


The Agua Special Utility District plans to take a hard line on leaks.

During a meeting on Monday afternoon, the Agua SUD board of directors told General Manager Roberto J. Salinas to stop adjusting water bills for customers with leaks.

“We’re not going to be waiving any more water for anybody,” said Director Rick Perez.

Customers with dripping faucets, leaky toilets and broken sprinkler systems regularly complain about high utility bills.

As a courtesy, Agua SUD adjusts their bills. The utility district also provides customers with advice on how to find and fix leaks.

The adjustments, however, add up.

In 2020, bill adjustments cost Agua SUD about $87,200. In 2021, bill adjustments cost Agua SUD nearly $86,800. And in 2022, bill adjustments cost Agua SUD about $43,000.

Agua SUD provided customers with another $6,200 worth of bill adjustments in January and nearly $2,200 in February.

The board reviewed the policy in January, when members voted 6-0 to authorize the general manager to approve bill adjustments of up to $1,000 for residential customers and $2,000 for business customers.

Rick Perez didn’t attend the meeting.

Concerned about the decision, Rick Perez asked for information about customers who requested leak adjustments.

“These are people that me and you know,” Rick Perez said. “If I tell you the names, you’ll probably be upset.”

Agua SUD should offer payment plans to people on fixed incomes, Rick Perez said, but regular people with jobs need to pay their water bills — leak or no leak.

Customers who can’t pay may still request a payment plan or ask the board to adjust the bill.

“To me, every penny counts,” Rick Perez said.

When the board met on Monday, he asked members to reverse the decision and strip the general manager of his authority to adjust water bills for customers with leaks.

The proposal wasn’t a reflection on Salinas, who accepted the general manager position in 2021. Rick Perez said he wanted to change the policy because Agua SUD simply couldn’t afford to give away water.

“I don’t know what you guys want to do,” Rick Perez said. “You want to give free water away, that’s your problem.”

Board President Maribel Diaz and Director Ana Maria Perez said they had no problem with changing the policy as long as Agua SUD informed customers in advance.

“I am in agreement. I think that we don’t have any money to waste,” Ana Maria Perez said. “But, by that same token, I believe that we need to inform our community.”

Director Adriana Flores-Villarreal, though, worried the new policy wouldn’t be fair to customers with leaks, who could be saddled with big utility bills.

“So what are we saying: That if someone has a leak it’s not going to be addressed?” Flores-Villarreal said.

Rick Perez wasn’t swayed.

“If it happens on their side of the meter, they’re going to have to pay for it,” Rick Perez said.

The board voted 4-2 to strip the general manager of the authority to approve leak adjustments. Flores-Villarreal and Director Homer Tijerina opposed the decision.

1 Comment

  1. Frank on March 17, 2023 at 11:50 am

    There is no free water. In an adjustment the water metered is subtracted by annual average use as a base. The sum of that calculation is charged regular rates, the balance of water metered from that calculation is charged a wholesale or 1st tier rate, so no free water. The company needs to make an effort to visit the site asking for adjustment to verify if there is landscaping use or illegal connections to the pipes after the meter, or residence used as a business. It may also consider meter testing for accuracy. The manager being stripped of his ability to address these issues may, MAY result in clandestine approvals by board members ala LJWSC days. Every adjustment must be documented and signed by adjustment grantor( now ASUD Board) just as manager( former grantor) was doing . Mis dos centavos

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