Iowa flooded with complaints over water, sewer rates

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Residents of the town of Iowa have voiced concerns about residential water and sewer rates. To provide information on water meters, the town hosted a meeting on Monday for residents.

Jeremy Greer, product specialist at Lafayette Winwater, explained how water meters work, and how they are calibrated and tested — Lafayette Winwater is a plumbing supply company that has been working for the town for over a decade.

Residents expressed concern about the accuracy of Iowa’s residential water meters.

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“I have a neighbor, she was out of town for over half a month, she came back and her water was over $80-something,” one said.

Residential water meters are calibrated at the factory, and do not have to be calibrated after they are installed, Greer said. Calibration accuracy readings are stored with Master Meter and can be provided upon request.

He also said their technology backlogs water meter data, and that abnormal bill amounts can be investigated to see if there was a leak or tampering. The water meters send usage information, and leak, tamper and backflow alarms, electronically.

The town said current water meters started being installed in 2017. It is recommended they are replaced every 10 years, Greer said, but due to cost this is not always possible.

Residents also have questions about the town’s rates, with many stating they are higher than surrounding water systems.

Louisiana Rural Water Association Water Circuit Writer Tony Sonnier said Iowa water rates are comparable with other systems in the state.

The rates for the town’s water and sewage were approved at a meeting in April 2023, and were made effective on May 1, 2023.

The residential rate for in-town water is $22 for the first 2000 gallons of water. For out-of-town water, the first 2000 gallons is $27. For both, every 1,000 gallons of water after 2000 gallons is $3.75. In-town sewer is $29 for the first 2000 gallons and out-of-town sewer is $34.

Tony Sonnier, Louisiana Rural Water Association, said at the meeting that

It is difficult to compare the rates of different systems because operational costs vary, he explained. Rates are set by the “sustainability factor,” to ensure they produce enough income to cover keep systems up and running in the case of emergency.

“Water systems and wastewater systems need to be able to stand on their own two feet.”

He said the town has applied for a rate study that will be conducted “sometime in the near future.”

Some residents said they were concerned about the sewage cost that comes with filling pools and using irrigation systems.

Sonnier said that generally, systems charge one gallon of wastewater per one gallon of water because there is no way to track wastewater. Additionally, it costs more to treat wastewater, so the rates are higher.

Greer said separate irrigation meters can be installed to ensure customers aren’t charged for sewerage when using large amounts of water.

“If people are wanting an irrigation meter, I don’t have an issue with it,” said Mayor Neal Watkins. “I think it’s a great idea, but, again, it’s all part of the process. We’ve got a lot of moving parts we’ve been trying to take care of.”

Residents can contact the town to get their meter read before filling their pools so they are not charged the sewerage fee, he said.

Also, bulk water can be purchased for $10 per 1,000 gallons if there is an accessible fire hydrant.