Recently, I reviewed my city utility bill. Admittedly, it’s the first time I really looked at it in detail. To my surprise, the bill said we “consumed” $25 worth of sewage. Yuck! I thought we released sewage. How does the city measure “sewer consumption?” Do you have any tips for reducing sewer consumption? Sign me, Appropriately Disgusted
Your query inspired Action Line to do the same, actually taking a look at the bill and not just mindlessly paying it.
It was shocking.
Not the amount owed. But that something issued by the city was quite useful.
For instance, there’s a handy bar chart showing water usage by month. Obviously, winter water use is lower than summer.
The bill also lists charges across eight different categories, including base fees, recycling, spring/fall cleanup and the dubiously dubbed “sewer consumption” line item
In the Action Line household, October’s bill was less than $100.
Considering what you get, it’s a heck of a deal.
For a hundred bucks, you have clean water on demand, recycling is super easy, your icky trash gets hauled away and bathroom waste disappears by pressing a small lever.
The biggest bargain is the spring/fall cleanup.
For a measly buck-fifty per month, you earn the right to dump that smelly couch on the curb and it will go away without propping a “free” sign on the stained cushions.
Regardless, there will be complaints about price of city services.
If you don’t want to pay, there’s always the county.
Ah, the rural lifestyle.
The rutted dirt roads and sulfurous water from wells that go dry. The septic systems, sewer lagoons and burning trash.
Of course, your friendly real estate agent will say all this comes with spectacular La Plata views!
Many folks enjoy rustic rigors, but not Mrs. Action Line.
She gets more than her fill of country by chasing the urbanized deer from the front lawn and shooing hostile raccoons from the bird feeder.
But let’s not get distracted. We need to flush out the reason for the city using the phrase “sewer consumption.”
A quick call to the Utilities Department brought clarity to this murky situation.
“Sewer consumption is the volume of everything that goes into the treatment system,” a representative said, admitting that “consumption” is “not a really good word” to describe wastewater treatment.
Interestingly, “sewer consumption” is measured without a meter.
The city looks at each household’s incoming water in January, February and March, when there’s negligible outside irrigation.
Water used in those three months becomes the baseline for sewer usage, because pretty much all winter water ends up going down the drain.
So to lower your “sewer consumption” fee, you would have to cut back on incoming water.
Stop bathing. Don’t wash your clothes. Use paper plates. Visit gas-station restrooms.
But it will be all for naught.
The city’s website pulls the stopper on wastewater cheaters and scofflaws.
“Residential accounts that have not established an average during the months of January, February and March will have a monthly flow charge calculated based on the average winter water use for all residential customers,” it advises.
In other words, consumption happens.
And in Durango, if you don’t use the sewer, it’s conspicuous consumption.
Email questions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you knew that the city distributes an average of 3.19 million gallons of drinking water daily but only treats 1.53 million gallons of wastewater daily.