It's February and still a long way from summer watering season, but one Geneva resident is questioning why the city of Geneva charges a sewer fee for water that goes into the ground.
That's an issue city officials have been grappling with for some time and hope will be resolved via a new billing system scheduled to go on line in May.
Sewer bills generally are based on the amount of water a resident uses, as measured by a meter. The idea is that the amount of water a resident or business uses is the same as the amount that goes into the sewer system.
But John Rittenhouse, a resident of Fourth Street, says that's not fair or accurate. Last spring, Rittenhouse and his wife invested in a new sprinkling system and found to his dismay that his sewage bill increased in 2012 by almost $600.
"At the time of the installation, my plumber asked if he could file with the city for a reverse meter to put on my water line that is used to support the sprinkling systems," he said. "Needless to say, Geneva does not offer such a program."
Ritttenhouse says reverse meters track the amount of water that is used for outdoor use, which then can be subtracted from the total water to more accurately calculate the user's sewage volume.
"From what I understand, there are several communities throughout Chicago that have adopted such a program recognizing there should not be a charge for sewage for water used outdoors that does not (go into) our sewer system," Rittenhouse said.
"Can you imagine if you multiplied this by all the Geneva residents whouse water for their property that doesn't enter the sewage system?" he said.
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns told Rittenhouse via e-mail last summer that adding an irrigation meter to every home in Geneva is cost prohibitive and the city does not have the staffing to maintain such a program.
That said, "the council will be considering implementing a summer cap on sewer charges based on a nine-month average once the city's new billing system is up and running," Burns said. So that topic could be coming up for debate in City Hall.
And that's all that Rittenhouse is looking for.
"At the very least, let's start the discussion or fact finding," he said.
The city conducted an extensive water-rate study in May 2012 in hopes of establishing a rate structure that would compensate for the fluctuation in water use each year. When there's a drought and consumption is high, the city has enough revenue to maintain the system. But when there's a lot of rainfall and consumption is low, there's not enough revenue to support infrastracture improvements and maintenance.
In June, the city approved a 5 percent water-rate increase and 6 percent sewer-rate increase.