Mysterious High Water Bill Befuddles California Man

For many of us, even a small increase in our monthly utility bills could throw off our entire budget. But what would you do if your next bill was nearly 10 times its normal amount?

That’s precisely what happened to Moreno Valley resident Jay Rajcevich and his water bill. When Rajcevich called the utility to find out what he owed, he was shocked to hear an amount that was eight times the normal bill. In August and September, Rajcevich’s water usage hovered between 600 and 800 gallons per day, for which he paid around $165 per month. But in October, his bill showed that he used over 4,000 gallons of water a day and owed $1,307.68.

Considering the fact that Rajcevich’s water usage has remained consistent over the past 20 years, both he and water district officials suspect that a water leak was the cause of the sudden increase. Water leaks are a common cause for spikes in usage and amounts owed. In fact, 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more on a daily basis. But thus far, Rajcevich has been unable to locate the leak.

Though Rajcevich has expressed frustration with the water district, they maintain that the onus of finding and fixing leaks is on the customer. Due to liability concerns, utility companies cannot task their employees with locating the leaks and cannot make recommendations to find someone who can.
“That’s not our role and responsibility,” said water district spokesperson Kevin Pearson. “It’s up to the customer to seek out somebody they are comfortable with to help them repair that issue.”

The response may seem surprising, given its California location. Though the state reversed its mandatory water reductions in May, California is still struggling to manage one of the worst droughts in its history. The mandates are now set by the districts. Moreno Valley is currently in Stage 3C of its water shortage contingency plan, which eliminates all excessive use water budgets.

Rajcevich initially suspected that his swimming pool or koi pond might hold the key to finding the leak, but after turning off the water supply to both for a few days, he was no closer to locating the source. He’s shut off the irrigation valve to the sprinklers in his front and back yards, checked all pumps and valves, and sought help from the two lawn maintenance workers who installed the sprinklers. But he still can’t figure out where the leak might be originating from.

The water district has informed Rajcevich that he can apply for a charge reduction as part of a program they offer for concealed leaks, which a property owner has no reasonable way of being aware of. He may be able to get the charges lowered by his utility company, but these options offer little comfort. For now, Rajcevich will have to continue to search for the source of the leak and hope that he will soon find a solution — before he’s drowning in water bills.

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