$24,000 water bill from California American Water Company

Monterey man gets $24K water bill whopper
Cal-Am responds quickly
By Jim Johnson, Herald Staff Writer

 Among the dozens of complaints from Monterey Peninsula residents about sudden, sky-high California American Water bills, Gervais Davis’ tale may have topped them all.

Last week, the 81-year-old retired Monterey attorney received a $24,028.86 bill that reflected 228,813 gallons of usage — enough to fill a medium-sized water tower tank — over a two-month period from mid-December to mid-February.

New problem?


Skyrocketing water bills mystify, anger residents
Water wars: Bills rise to the thousands
March 2, 2011

    • Atlanta woman reacts to her $3,000 water bill: I’m “sinking in a hole of water”
    • City water officials received more than 22,000 calls in January
    • Many problems arise after installation of automated water meters
    • Similar water bill spikes reported in Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Florida

The problematic meters in Atlanta are made by Neptune Technologies.

Neptune smart meters are used by California American Water Company (Cal-Am) in Monterey County, too, though Cal-Am is changing over to Mueller smart water meters. But Cal-Am is not replacing the Neptune meters.

Semantics and p.r. are in full force

  • Cal-Am does not call these meters Smart Meters. They call them “RF meters”.
  • Cal-Am says leaks and rates are the reason for the high bills, even though many customers have hired professionals and have not found leaks.


In several cases documented in The Herald, follow-up inspections — some by Cal Am’s own experts — reported no discernible leaks.


Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Stedman said company officials realized the Monterey district needed someone specifically dedicated to dealing with high bills, especially because unintended usage such as leaks could drive the bills as high as several thousands of dollars due to the district’s steeply tiered rate design.

“I think we realize high bills due to the rate design and leaks are very burdensome on customers,” Stedman said. “The steeply tiered rates are there to encourage conservation, and they’ve been very effective. But we need to learn how to deal with the rate design. Now we have a person in Monterey focused just on the high bills situation.

…However, both Lopez and Stedman told The Herald that the company still believes its meters are accurate, and that even a stratospheric reading like Davis’ can be explained.

  • Cal-Am has not told the public they are replacing analog water meters with wireless water meters.
  • Despite many articles in local newspapers, information about the meters and the historical problem with wireless Smart Meter accuracy and reliability is not reported. Why?The only mention about the type of meters was here, and the newspaper does not say these are wireless smart meters:
    October 15, 2012

The directors also said they would look into one customer’s list of possible malfunction causes in equipment made by Neptune Technology Group, the company that manufactures Cal Am’s newest meters. (Cal-Am General Manager) Sabolstice said around 40 percent of customers use the newer meters.

There is an ongoing campaign of deception by the utilities, the media, and oversight agencies. Why?

  • Cal-Am sought to recover the “leak” adjustment credits given to customers with high bills, from the ratepayers, even though there was no investigation or proof that these were actual water losses. Neither the California Public Utilities Commission nor the local Monterey Peninsula Water Management District have investigated these problems to ascertain how many bills come from Cal-Am’s Smart Meters.

In the face of such financial costs and problems over performance, as well as the other enormous liabilities with Smart Meters, why has this program been allowed to continue? Why is the public so poorly served?

For more information:
Analysis: Smart Meter and Smart Grid Problems, p. 11-16

Monterey County Herald articles:
Special California American Water Company page: http://www.montereyherald.com/calambills

Cal Am awash in disputed water bills; more customers question their usage, charges, August 11, 2012

Cal Am water customers have ally in complaints, October 15, 2012

Cal Am seeks to recover costs from leak adjustments on water bills, October 18, 2012

Cal Am drops request to recover costs for courtesy leak adjustments, March 19, 2013

Monterey: Cal Am takes responsibility for some spiked water bills; High water bills caused by accounting, register errors, May 22, 2013

Monterey water crisis: spiked bills still a problem for some; Carmel Woods couple baffled by $5526 charge, February 18, 2014

Monterey man gets $24K water bill whopper; Cal-Am responds quickly, March 9, 2014

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