Publication Date: Autumn 1999
Water conservation is both a necessary goal and a strong priority in the City of New York. In the early 1980s, State studies concluded that the city used almost 25% more water than the existing reservoir and water tunnel system could be counted upon to provide. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) initiated a legal challenge against the City, which resulted in a 10-year plan for water conservation memorialized by a consent order. Under the assumption that people would use less water if they had to pay based on use, the court-ordered agreement required that water meters be installed in all properties in New York City.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) instituted a decade-long program combining City installation of meters and opportunities for voluntary compliance. Water rates were increased to cover the cost of the meter installations, and a parallel public information campaign was launched to promote water conservation.
Conservation was indeed the result in private homes, where the resident was the rate payer. In multiple dwellings, however, this logic did not always prevail, since the residents of individual apartments may not be influenced in their water use habits by the presence of a meter in the basement measuring building-wide use. Furthermore, there was apprehension among building owners -- including some cooperatives and condominiums -- about the advisability of compliance, lest metered- water costs skyrocket. At this writing, DEP records show that thousands of multiple dwellings are still not metered, even though the Water Board offers properties of six or more units an option to remain on frontage billing after the meter is installed.
TRANSITION PROGRAM EXPANDS
Under the Water Board's Transition program, property owners have an opportunity to continue to be billed on the frontage rate for at least a year and to convert to metered billing when they find that it is beneficial to them. Since 1992, the option to remain on frontage has been extended annually. The Water Board designed this pro-gram to provide owners of multiple dwellings of six or more units with the best possible option when it comes to water and sewer billing.
DEP CONTACTING UNMETERED
The timeframes associated with the Consent Order now require DEP to act to bring unmetered properties into compliance. DEP is in the process of writing to all of the properties shown in their records to be unmetered to advise them that they will be subject to a 100% surcharge on their next annual frontage bills (July 1, 2000-June 30, 2001). Because annual billings go out in May, if buildings wish to avoid the surcharge, they must have these meters installed by April 15, 2000, or at least have a work order logged into the DEP computer at that time. DEP cannot guarantee work orders for requests received after January 1, 2000. Therefore, NOW is the time to arrange to have your meter installed. There are two ways to get a water meter installed:
OPTION 1: Have the City Install Your Meter. A DEP contractor will install the meter at no cost to the building owner. Requests for meter installations should be faxed to (718) 595-7245. The request should clearly indicate the address, account or block/lot number, contact name and telephone number. If the request arrives after January 1, 2000, DEP will work to fulfill it, but cannot guarantee that requests received after that date will be fulfilled in time to prevent a surcharge.
OPTION 2: Have Your Own Plumber Install Your Meter. Owners may hire a licensed plumber to install the water meter and be reimbursed up to the market rate for a meter installation. More information is available on the DEP Website at http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/dep/. Interested parties may also fax a request for a booklet to (718) 595-7245 or call (718) 595-7700 and ask about the Reimbursable Metering Program. It is important that the plumber who is selected has a current, valid license. This can be checked with the NYC Department of Buildings at (212) 312-8217. It is also important to verify that your plumber appropriately registers your building with DEP once the meter is installed.
CHOOSING WHEN TO BEGIN METER-BASED
The Water Board will allow residential multiple dwellings of six or more units to remain on annual flat-rate billing even after a water meter is installed, until the owner opts to be billed on the meter. Until the owner makes that decision, DEP will read the monitor-only meter twice each year and provide consumption information to the owner with their annual bill. This will enable the owner to identify and correct any leaks or other problems, insuring that the decision to go on meter-based billing will be an informed one. Once made, this decision cannot be reversed, although DEP also has provisions for annual bill caps and for billing adjustments when major leaks occur.
VERIFY THAT YOUR METER IS
Some of the buildings that receive notification from DEP will have al-ready installed meters using their own plumbers. For one reason or another, DEP may not have accurate records of the installation. If you receive notification but have already installed your meter, contact Warren Liebold at DEP by fax at (718) 595-7245 to have the records corrected. Be sure to include your property's block and lot numbers and DEP account number, a phone or fax number to which to respond, and, if possible, the meter number.
ASK DEP ABOUT YOUR WATER
At CNYC's Annual Meeting on March 9, 2000, representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection will be present with their computers connected directly to the City's billing records. They will help you check (and correct) the records on your water bills and answer questions that you may have. Plan to arrive early at the Annual Meeting to have plenty of time to verify your records.