SKY VALLEY, Calif. - Lou Murdica is a Sky Valley resident whose family enjoys 15 acres of land. There's even a small baseball field for his grandchildren. He's lived on his partially desert landscaped property for almost 20 years, but says in the last six he's paid over $20,000 in water bills to Coachella Valley Water District.
"I'll pay some more [for] water for my landscaping, but the way it's being charged ain't right," said Murdica. His main complaint is with CVWD's tier system used to budget customers based on their individual needs.
"None of the numbers are the same every month, and none of the numbers match every yard, every bill. They're all different," said Murdica.
According to CVWD, water budgets are based on 50 gallons per day per person and default with four people per home. Budgets are adjusted with the season.
"If you have a large property with a large landscaped area you have larger budget than someone who has a small property like a condo that maybe doesn't have any landscaped area," said Heather Engel, communication and conservation director with CVWD.
If a customer exceeds their water budget, they fall in a higher tier, which comes at a higher cost.
Despite his concerns over his bills, Murdica said he probably would not have contacted us if it weren't for the leak he saw at the CVWD booster station on Dillon and Thousand Palms Canyon Road.
"There's got to be more water being poured into the dirt than we've ever used in our lifetime because it's coming up now and water goes down not up," said Murdica. When we asked about the leak, CVWD said they've known about it since February.
"This particular leak was very small, an on again-off again [leak] in a rural area, wasn't causing any safety concerns, wasn't causing any property damage, so it went to the bottom of the priority list," said Engel.
All leaks are prioritized based on safety and potential for property damage. The water district said to repair this leak, customers in the area would be without water for a minimum of 12 hours, so they've been waiting for temperatures to drop.
In an effort to resolve Murdica's concerns with his high we arranged a meeting with district conservation manager Katie Evans. Given the extreme water use seen on Murdica's property, Evans said he likely there was a possibility he was not allocated enough square footage for his water budget from CVWD. Both were true. An irrigation leak was found and after reviewing his land his landscaped area was increased from just over 33,000 square feet to near 150,000 square feet. Murdica was also issued a credit for around $650.
If you have concerns similar to Murdica's or think you may be getting charged incorrectly for your water bill, CVWD encourages contact them. They offer a variety of consultation services and if necessary, will schedule appointments to visit your home for a conservation review.