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DEP makes need for new meters aqua clear.

The DEP has been spending the last few years preparing buildings in New York for a water-billing rate that is determined by the amount of water consumed by a property. The DEP claims that on July 2006 it will convert all water billing to meter billing. At that point, frontage will no longer be an option for water billing. The DEP has extended the date twice. Will they extend the date again? No one knows for certain.

Most buildings in New York complied and installed entire premise meters. However, many buildings opted to stay on frontage billing while the entire premise meter monitored meter consumption and plan on remaining on front-age until the DEP converts them to meter billing. This does not always save the owner money.

A review of frontage vs. meter bills reveals that many buildings should convert to meter billing for substantial savings on their water bills. Analyzing each building for the best possible water rate is the only way to properly determine what rate to choose. The right choice can save owners thousands of dollars per year.

While owners are on frontage they are not realizing that the I-Mon meter, (I-Monitor is the status that a meter is in while the property continues to be billed on frontage) has malfunctioned and is no longer registering.

This problem is going to cause hundreds of thousands of billing errors when the DEP does convert everyone to meter. A meter that isn't registering is subject to incorrect estimating and estimating is never in the owner's favor. If the DEP estimates too low, one day the owner will receive a whopping catch-up bill. Budgeting for water expense is essential today.

Water bills are going to rise 100% in the next 10 years. The much anticipated and costly filtration system is now under construction in the Bronx. The cost of the system was estimated by one independent group to have a price tag of over a billion dollars. In addition, annual maintenance of the filtration system will be in the millions. Much of this money will have to come from owners' pockets. With water bill rates increasing annually, every drop should be monitored. It will be too costly for the owner if a building is subject to water leaks or waste.

Automatic Meter Reading (known as AMR) was developed to account for every drop of water. This technology system reads all utility meters, but for this application, specifically water meters. It is used to bill commercial tenants and read entire premise meters for the DEP. However, in the rest of the world, AMR is utilized to read each residential tenant's water consumption in order for the tenant to pay their own water bill. (It's time for New York State to join the rest of the world and permit residential tenants in rent controlled buildings to pay for their own water use.) AMR helps buildings maintain a budget for water use. The system is always programmed to pick out consumption irregularities that will indicate leaks or waste. AMR is a very helpful tool to stop problems before they get too costly. The DEP currently approves one AMR system. This AMR system specifically indicates if meters and/or valves are broken. AMR is more accurate than manual meter reading. And an added bonus is that it is less expensive than manual meter reading.

The DEP has introduced the multi-family conservation program that can be used in lieu of frontage and meter billing. The incentive for this program is that there is one flat rate used per apartment per year. Not all buildings will benefit by utilizing rate, but for many this will be the answer to the high cost of water billing. The owner has to work closely with the DEP by installing low flow fixtures such as toilets, showers, sinks and washing machines. Tenants may not have dishwashers in their units. The DEP will kick buildings off this program if the building is not kept watertight.

The fact is that once the DEP converts all buildings to meter billing they are going to remove all programs that will give a building recourse if a water bill gets too high. This will leave owners high and dry if a water bill reflects a leak or the bills get too high per apartment.

The multi-family conservation program is scheduled to close the application date on December 31, 2004. Again, a proper analysis of water consumption will help determine if a building should apply for this program. Anyone interested should start months before the deadline of December 31, 2005.

Serious attention is needed now to help control future water expenses.

Debbie Ginsberg President Refund Consultant Inc. and Remote Meter Technology of NY, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Insiders Outlook
Author:Ginsberg, Debbie
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 29, 2004
Previous Article:On the web.
Next Article:Price is high for health.

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