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City of Calgary and ENMAX water billing questions and answers

Water delivery and customer care

The City of Calgary owns, operates and maintains the Water Utility, including the meters and water infrastructure, such as pipes and water treatment plants.

The City, as owner and operator, establishes all customer water rates in Calgary, as well as the policies and procedures for administering these rates, including the policies and procedures in place for rare circumstances involving abnormally high consumption.

The City contracts ENMAX to provide billing and customer care for City of Calgary Water Utility customers.

ENMAX reads the water meters, produces the bills and provides customer care services on The City’s behalf. One hundred per cent of the fees for water services collected by ENMAX are sent directly to The City, and ENMAX carries out its services in accordance with The City’s rates, policies and procedures.

Billing and bill adjustments

What should I do if I get an unexpectedly high bill?

The City contracts ENMAX to read the meters, produce the bills and provide customer care services on The City's behalf.

If you have questions about your water bill, please call ENMAX as soon as possible at 310-2010.

Please note that it takes time to review each customers’ situation and work to find the cause of the high water use. Depending on call volume and length of time needed to assess each customer’s situation, there may be higher than usual wait times for you to have your specific situation reviewed.

We are committed to ensuring we serve each customer as quickly as possible, while also ensuring we spend the time required to resolve each situation. We appreciate your patience.

How are bills adjusted in circumstances of unexpectedly high water consumption?

We recognize that it is difficult for customers to receive an abnormally high water bill, and therefore, The City has changed its bill adjustment policies and procedures to support customers experiencing this situation.

The City and ENMAX will continue to work with individual customers that have abnormally high bills related to unintentional water consumption.

The first step is to support the customer to work through The City’sHigh Water Consumption Checklisthigh consumption checklist.

Customers are often able to identify the cause of their abnormal water consumption by completing the checklist. If the cause cannot be found, ENMAX and The City move into a more extensive investigation which includes a review of the billing processes and the dispatch of professionally-trained technicians to inspect and check the customer’s water meter to ensure it is working correctly.

If a customer receives a water bill equal to or greater than three times their average monthly use for that season, they should call ENMAX, as soon as possible.

Once the issue is determined and fixed, the bill will be reduced to reflect the customer’s seasonal average water use, plus the basic services charges for water, wastewater and drainage. This reduction will occur for up to two billing cycles (approximately 60 days), providing sufficient time to identify and repair the issue.

Please note that it takes time to review each customers’ situation and work to find the cause of the high water use. Depending on call volume and length of time needed to assess each customer’s situation, there may be higher than usual wait times for you to have your specific situation reviewed.

We are committed to ensuring we serve each customer as quickly as possible, while also ensuring we spend the time required to resolve each situation. We appreciate your patience.

The City will monitor the new water bill adjustment process through 2017 and may make further adjustments in 2018.

If I had a high bill in the past, can I still be compensated?

The City will review bill adjustments related to abnormal water consumption made since April 7, 2016 (the last update to the billing adjustment process) to determine if those historically high bills meet the new criteria.

An abnormally high bill is defined as equal to or greater than three times your average monthly water use for that season. If further adjustments are required to align with the new process then you will be contacted.

How do you know unexpectedly high bills aren’t caused by a billing or metering issue?

We know that customers must be able to trust that their water consumption is accurately captured by their meter and reflected on their bills.

Both the meters and billing system are extensively and regularly tested both as part of regular business practice, and through troubleshooting with a customer if they receive an abnormally high bill.

There are no indications of irregularities in the billing or metering processes resulting in an increase in abnormally high consumption bills. To provide customer assurance, The City and ENMAX are conducting independent assessments of billing and metering processes to further validate their accuracy.

The City and ENMAX will continue to work with individual customers that have abnormally high bills related to unintentional water consumption.

The first step is to support the customer to work through The City’sHigh Water Consumption Checklisthigh consumption checklist.

Customers are often able to identify the cause of their abnormal water consumption by completing the checklist. If the cause cannot be found, ENMAX and The City move into a more extensive investigation which includes a review of the billing processes and the dispatch of professionally-trained technicians to inspect and check the customer’s water meter to ensure it is working correctly.

I’ve heard The City did an audit on water billing. What is that about?

This audit of City of Calgary Water Utility billing processes was part of the City Auditor’s Office annual audit plan approved in November 2016. It was not a result of concerns of billing accuracy nor was it related to recent water customer inquiries involving unexpected high consumption situations.

The Water Utility has agreed to all recommendations and is committed to implementing them in 2018.

Identifying and preventing high water consumption

What steps does The City go through to figure out the cause of a significant spike in usage by a customer?

The City will continue to have a program in place to assist in situations where customers incur abnormally high bills related to unintentional water consumption. A customer service representative will work with each customer who shares concerns about abnormal bills.

Customers are supported with The City’sHigh Water Consumption Checklisthigh consumption checklist and are often able to identify the cause of their abnormal water consumption.

If the cause cannot be found, The City moves into a more extensive investigation, which includes sending professionally-trained technicians to troubleshoot for the cause and checking the water meter is part of that process.

When The City came out to help troubleshoot, my meter was replaced. What does this mean?

There are a number of reasons a meter may be replaced. For example, The City often uses the opportunity of being on site to replace a customer’s meter as part of a program to update older water meters.

The City has an ongoing meter life cycle replacement program to update our older water meters that have reached the end of their life cycle with newer and more efficient meters that are equipped with new technology that allows them to be read by a portable device at a distance.

In other examples, if a meter is removed for testing, in order to ensure billing can continue, a new meter is installed. This replacement did not mean there is any error on the part of the removed meter.

What can cause abnormally high water consumption?

The most common cause of large increases in water consumption are leaks in the home. The most common sources of large increases in water consumption are outlined in the following chart:


Common Sources of Water Leaks

What can I do to prevent leaks?

Checking for leaks in and around your home will help ensure that you aren’t unintentionally consuming water.

Visit Water Leaks and Basic Repairs for ways that you can save water. There are even more tips and ideas on how to save water around your home on The City's Water Conservation page.

How common is it for customers to experience significantly high spikes in water usage?

About 99.5 per cent of our over 350,000 customers receive monthly bills that reflect regular water consumption within their average range. Each month, there are approximately less than one half of one per cent of all customers whose consumption differs significantly from their historical usage.

Most are able to identify the cause of their increase in consumption and can attribute it to obvious causes like a hot tub, leaking irrigation system, a burst pipe or a water heater.

Are there more incidents of abnormally high consumption by customers now than in previous years?

No, we have not seen an increase in incidents of abnormally high water consumption.

Water meters

How can I trust that my meter is accurate?

The City uses water meters that meet industry standards. To certify the meter’s accuracy, all meters are tested by the manufacturer at three different flow rates prior to distribution to The City.

The City is one of the only municipalities in Canada to also own a state-of-the-art Water Meter Test Bench manufactured by MARS Company, an industry leader in meter testing technology.

Water meters are mechanical devices – water needs to pass through the meter in order to record use. In rare cases, meters can register slightly higher volumes at certain flows than what is flowing through.

In that rare event, the increase would be negligible. It is much more likely for a meter to register lower than actual water consumption, as water meters tend to slow down as they age. This would result in a lower bill for the customer, not higher. Also, in this case it would not likely be a one-month error but show as a pattern.

How can I check to see if my meter is operating properly?

Your meter is typically located in the basement where your water service enters the home. The meter has numbers (looks similar to an odometer on a car) and a dial called a flow register. The dial and numbers shows water consumption. For more information, visit How to Read a Water Meter.

It’s easy to check if your meter is registering flow: have someone turn water on in the house, and watch as the flow register turns and registers consumption.

If the flow register is turning and all fixtures are off, this could indicate that you have a leak.

To help troubleshoot the cause, visit Water Leaks and Basic Repairs.

How is my meter read and how am I billed as a result of the meter reading?

Most water meters (almost 90 per cent of homes) are electronically read for billing purposes by a meter reader. Meter readings are taken monthly. Water readings are electronically sent to the meter reader's device so that no one has to enter the home. Water meters are installed just above the main water shut-off valve in the home. This is usually in the basement and is located on a pipe that comes out of the basement floor.

The remaining residential meters are read manually by a meter reader and recorded. These manual read-outs located on the outside of the home, are being replaced by electronic readings as part of our meter replacement program.

Readings are obtained from 99 per cent of the meters. The other one per cent of time, we don’t receive a transmission (i.e. no reading) so the customer is billed based on historical usage. The next time the meter reader is able to pick up a transmission, the bill is updated with the actual past reading. There may be some minor adjustments in order to reconcile the difference.