Estimated Billing

Estimated Billing Update

July 24, 2020

Our meter readers were back on the job as of June 1, meaning meter reads were estimated for approximately 2.5 months. Estimates were made using historical data from the same period in 2019. Actual usage, however, can vary from last year for many reasons:

  • More people are living and working from home now
  • The weather was colder and wetter during 2019
  • Warmer weather increases irrigation needs
  • Increased handwashing, dishwashing, laundry, etc. 

With our meter readers back, we are capturing data on what is actually being used. There is a great possibility that you were billed less for March/April and more in May/June. If you add the four months together, however, there is a good chance that they equal what you would have normally been charged, but it is lopsided due to the estimate.

To help this situation, we are providing a refund to all customers who were charged in the third tier with the next bill.  All water charged at this more expensive tier ($6.5545 per CCF) will be recalculated at the lower, second tier rate ($4.9160 per CCF). This will be done automatically and the one-time credit will be reflected on your next bill.   

In addition to the credit, we have also taken the following steps in support of our customers during this time:

  • Suspended water shutoffs
  • Suspended all collection activity
  • Suspended collection of customer deposits for new accounts
  • Offered extended payment arrangements

We believe it was the right decision in line with our core values and with local public health guidance at the time to ensure the protection of our employees, customers and the community.  This has been an unprecedented time for all of us. 

Meter Reading Resumes

Update: June 17, 2020

COVID-19 has affected our community in profound ways. And, San Jose Water realizes that many of our customers are also impacted.  

One of the many adjustments San Jose Water made to protect our employees and communities [JT1] included limiting our operations to essential functions only. This meant that from March 17 to May 31, our staff were not out in the community reading meters due to safety concerns.  As such, the usage was estimated to calculate your bill covering this period.

Meter reading resumed on June 1 (with safety precautions in place) meaning your bills are no longer estimated. The bills you are receiving are based on actual usage and have been adjusted to reflect usage from the estimated bills.

In light of the meter reading change and the shelter-in-place order, some residential customers may find that their usage has reached the third tier.  For these customers, a one-time credit will be issued on their next bill.

When you receive your first bill after your estimated one, customers who were charged in the third tier of usage (36+ CCF) will receive a credit on their next bill. The third tier usage will be recalculated at the lower second tier rate. A one-time credit reflecting this difference will automatically be applied to your next bill.

Usage between 7 and 36 CCF is charged $4.9160 per CCF. Usage over 36 CCF is calculated at $6.5545.

Bi-Monthly Tiers and Rates

0 to 6 CCF            $3.2770

7 to 36 CCF         $4.9160

36+ CCF                $6.5545

1 CCF = 748 gallons

Example:  If you used 40 CCF of water during this billing period, 4 CCF would be charged at $6.5545 per CCF. San Jose Water will look at the first bill based on actual meter reads following your estimated bill and recalculate this third tier at the lower second tier rate.

We will calculate 4 CCF of water at the difference between the third and second tiers ($6.5545 - $4.9160 = $1.6385 x 4 CCF) ) resulting in a one-time credit of $6.55 on your next bill.

Update: June 1, 2020

As Santa Clara County moves to Phase 2 of its COVID-19 plan, San Jose Water is beginning to resume full operations for some departments. Meter reading, which was suspended on March 17, 2020, will start up again on June 1, 2020 with enhanced safety precautions for our staff.

For customers, this means that estimated billing will end as soon as we start reading your meters.

What happens now if my estimated bill was too high or too low?

When we read your meter after June 1st, your actual usage will be calculated. The bill will automatically be adjusted to reflect the usage difference since the estimated bill.

If your estimated usage was higher than your actual usage, you will receive a credit on your bill.

If your estimated usage was lower than your actual usage, you will be billed for the difference.

Example #1

Your account is billed every other month. Your last meter read was 400 on February 18, 2020. The meter read for your April bill was estimated as 418 for 18 units of water.

If your meter read in June is 438, you will be billed for 20 units of water. This is the difference between your current and estimated meter reads.

Example # 2

Your account is billed every other month. Your last meter read was 500 on February 27, 2020. The meter read for your April bill was estimated as 560 for 60 units of water.

If your meter read in June is 550, your estimated April bill will be recalculated with the meter read of 550 and the difference credited to your June bill. The credit will appear on your bill as a “Bill Correction”.

My usage seems high. Why?

You are being billed for exactly the amount of water you used since we last read your meter. In the interim, you had received estimated bills that were based on your 2019 usage.

But there are a few things that have changed since 2019. The weather in 2019 was cooler and wetter than the same period in 2020. This can cause an increase in outdoor irrigation for 2020.

In addition, many of us are staying at home during the shelter-in-place orders. Your indoor usage may have increased from last year since more people are in their houses — students are doing distance learning, people are not travelling for work or pleasure, etc.

What can San Jose Water do to help me use water more efficiently?

Our Water Conservation services are on hold due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

However, there are several ways you can make sure you are using water wisely:

I’m looking at my consumption history on my bill. It shows I used a lot more water this year. Why?

Because of estimated billing between March 17, 2020 and June 1, 2020, your usage recorded during that time on the bill included an estimation. Your actual usage is accurately reflected over two billing periods, not one.

Safety Message as SJW Employees Return to Work

Please observe social distancing rules (6’ apart) when you see San Jose Water staff in the field. We’re happy to talk to our customers and to share information. But we want everyone to remain safe. We appreciate you following local and national safety guidelines.

Update March 17, 2020

Beginning March 17, 2020, the Santa Clara County Public Health Office put in place a legal order for residents to shelter at home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

While our area is under a shelter-in-place order, we are minimizing the number of employees in the field. One step will be to utilize estimated billing.

For most of our customers, our meter readers manually read the meter every other month and a bill is produced. There are more than 230,000 meters within our service area. It takes a full two months to read all the meters and produce a bi-monthly bill.

How does estimated billing work?

For most of our customers with a consumption history, San Jose Water will look at your prior year’s usage during the same time period to determine an estimated usage for your home.

When the shelter-in-place order is lifted, we will resume manual reading of your meter for the next billing period. Any difference between your estimated usage and actual usage will be automatically adjusted on your bill.

Why are you estimating my bill?

We are taking this action due to the shelter-in-place order from the State of California and Santa Clara County. The order limits any unnecessary activities that could put the public at risk. Our goal is to limit as much interaction with the public as possible.

How can I tell if my bill has been estimated?

There will be a message printed on your bill stating:

In order to uphold social distancing and confinement measures, we will not be reading meters manually. As a result, this is an estimated bill. We appreciate your prompt payment. Please visit www.sjwater.com/COVID-19 for more information.

How long will estimated billing last?

At this time, it will last as long as the shelter-in-place directive. All decisions will be made according to orders from the state and county to protect our employees, customers and community.

What happens when you start reading meters again?

When we return to manual meter reads, we will be able to determine how much water was actually used since the last time the meter was read. If your actual usage was less than your estimated usage, you will receive a credit on your bill. If your actual usage was higher than your estimated usage, you will be billed for the difference.

Do I have to pay the estimated bill?

We appreciate your responsiveness to paying your water bill.

If you are having difficulty paying your bill, please contact our office via email at customer.service@sjwater.com or by phone at (408) 279-7900. We’re here to help you through this difficult time.

Are existing meter reads included on current bills?

Yes, this bill will look exactly the same as a current one. However, it will have a message indicating that it is “estimated.”

How do you estimate my bill if I wasn’t living at this address a year ago?

We look at recent usage and trends within your area or neighborhood.

Why have I seen San Jose Water trucks in my neighborhood if you are not reading meters?

SJW will continue to respond to emergencies and critical needs — ensuring the continued reliable delivery of safe and clean water.  This requires our staff to be active in your community responding to these issues.  Please respect the social distancing “6-foot” rule when it comes to approaching those you see in the field. Thank you for your vigilance and please report leaks by calling (408) 279-7900.

 

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Under extraordinary circumstances, San Jose Water is allowed to estimate meter readings. The California Public Utilities Commission states: If, because of unusual conditions or for reasons beyond the utility's control, it is unable to read the customer's meter on the scheduled reading date, it may bill the customer for estimated consumption during the billing period and make any necessary corrections when a reading is obtained. Estimated consumption for this purpose will be calculated considering the customer's prior usage, the utility's experience with other customers of the same class in that area, and the general characteristics of the customer's operations. Adjustments for any underestimate or overestimate of a customer's consumption will be reflected on the first regularly scheduled bill rendered, and based on an actual reading following the period of inaccessibility.