The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which serves Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, said many customers might experience some sticker shock as they begin receiving their most recent water bills.
Most utility companies send out their bills every quarter, and customers getting their water bills right around now could be in line for an unexpected surprise.
It’s not because of a rate increase from Maryland’s largest water utility or a leaky pipe (hopefully not): It’s the stay-at-home order.
Think about it.
If your next bill just arrived, or is about to, then it probably covered the three months where stay-at-home orders were in effect: March, April and May.
During those months customers were not going out to eat much, if at all.
Most workers were not likely going to the office either.
People were at home: Washing hands — a lot. Cooking more — a lot more. And all of that activity requires water.
“A lot of the large commercial customers that WSSC Water has … they haven’t been there. Large federal buildings in the two counties we serve have been shut down,” said Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman with WSSC Water.
“So all of our larger customers have not been using water, but our demand has been about the same, so what that tells you is the residential customers have been using the same amount of water as if our commercial customers were in business, and many of those buildings have been shut down.” Riggins said.
While how much bigger customer bills will be will depend on how much more water customers used, WSSC Water said it will work with those who might not be able to pay the higher bills all at once.
If you are a customer who is unable to pay your WSSC Water bill right now, Riggins said the utility wants you to call.
“We will figure out a payment plan — there’s not one that fits everybody. We will customize it to each and every customer, if need be, to get everyone through this.” Riggins said.
Those payment plans won’t tack on any late fees, and no one needs to worry about losing service, according to WSSC Water.
“We are not shutting anyone off for nonpayment,” said Riggins.
That said, “Don’t look at that bill and put it in a drawer and not deal with it. The most important thing to do is call us and we will work with you to get through this.” Riggins said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the utility suspended the practice of in-home meter readings.
Now those customers can expect an estimated bill, but they are being encouraged to call WSSC Water so someone can help them read the meter.
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“How we figure out estimated usage is the amount of water that you used during the same time last year,” said Riggins.
But customers should expect the estimate won’t be accurate since customers are probably using more water now.
“At some point, we will get an actual reading and then you will see the increase that you would owe on that bill. We would rather bill you on actual consumption, it’s better for the customer,” Riggins said.