Your Bill For Using Zero Gallons Of Water: $92.65

Mark writes:
I recently was forced to move for work. Considering the home market, it won’t be a shock that I haven’t been able to sell my own home. I’m still paying utilities since I need them on for showing the house. The city where I used to live recently raised the rates of the minimum water bill by about $35, making my new bill for zero gallons used a whopping $92.65 (this is New Mexico remember). This is not my issue though.

Among the “improvements” that have come with the rate increase has been new and improved water bills with return envelopes. I’m attaching a picture of the bill and the envelope. Look at it closely and think of what would happen if I put the bill in the return envelope, stamp it and send it off. I’ll give you a hint, I’d waste a stamp and it’d come right back to me!

I sent an email about it last month to the “Deputy Village Manager” who assured me it would be fixed. It wasn’t.

Albuquerque, NM

We hope they aren’t planning another rate increase to compensate for the sudden spike in delinquent accounts.


Edit Your Comment

  1. RumorsDaily says:

    The real question is: is Mark’s name and address used as the return address on just his bill, or on everybody’s bill? The look of confusion on one customer’s face when he suddenly receives 50,000 water bill payments would be worth the lost revenue.

  2. WhatThe... says:

    NO the real question is… what’s on the back side of the bill… often times that is where the correct mailing address is located. The front side is used to mail it to you, then the backside has the city address in the correct spot.

  3. Groovnick says:

    Usually with bills like this you just flip it over and the correct address is on the other side. Not in this case?

  4. Groovnick says:

    Dang, beat me to it.

  5. smirky says:

    Yes many bills have the mailing address on the reverse but they are usually placed in a way that only that address can show through the return envelope. The customer’s address should not show through the window regardless of how the bill is inserted.

  6. Shutterman says:


    The back of the bill is blank. Otherwise I wouldn’t have written in about it.

  7. RumorsDaily says:

    Is that monthly bill, or a quarterly bill?

  8. barfoo says:

    BTW Mark, redacting your address while leaving the postal bar code is a little counterproductive: someone could easily figure out your ZIP+4 from that.

  9. Shutterman says:

    That assumes anyone actually cares about my zip code.

    And it’s a monthly bill.

  10. RumorsDaily says:

    The minimum is a $100 a month! That’s crazy!

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    @RumorsDaily: Not too much. Keep in mind that the Anasazi civilization – among the largest in pre-Columbus America – collapsed due to drought.

  12. edrebber says:


    Have the water turned off.

  13. Blinker says:


    Yeah but they were stupid and didnt know how to build water lines that bring water from places that do have it to places that dont. You know Las Vegas was always a desert until we smart people brought water to it.

  14. humphrmi says:

    @edrebber: He’s showing the house. He needs the utilities on to show it. I would never put an offer on a house who’s water is turned off.

  15. evilhapposai says:

    Things like this make me happy I live in the middle of nowhere. My monthly water bill $0 per month with my well. Gotta buy some salt every so often if I need soft water but maybe 2 bags a month at $4 each and don’t HAVE to buy them if money gets a bit tight for the month.

  16. sir_eccles says:

    I’m not sure I understand the confusion about being charged for zero gallons water usage. My experience of water bills is that they general cover a number of things such as:
    -water used
    -sewerage treatment (i.e. cleaning the water flushed away)
    -surface runoff collection (i.e. rain water that falls on your roof)
    -infrastructure (i.e. maintaining pipes to and from the property)
    -etc etc

    They sometimes lump these into a “standing charge”. So just because you haven’t left a tap running doesn’t mean you haven’t had to pay for some of the other stuff.

  17. verena says:

    Is there more to this bill? I only see the pay stub, not the number of gallons used… Somebody could be stealing water, there could be a toilet leak (I got hammered for about $100 for this one month), there could be another leak, or the realtor or a buyor may have left a faucet running. Lots of possibiities without seeing the actual usage numbers.

  18. MonkeyMonk says:

    @sir_eccles: Did you even bother to read his letter?

  19. Shutterman says:


    While this is true, it used to all cost around $56, and that was when I was using water, producing sewage and making an impact on infrastructure.

    My point wasn’t even the money. It’s rural New Mexico and water is scarce. I sent this in because I thought it was funny that my bill got raised so much to make improvements like fancy new bills with return envelopes that are useless.

  20. evslin says:

    @sir_eccles: Maybe, but over 90 bucks? You don’t find that just a little unusual?

  21. ogman says:

    This not surprising and huge increases are becoming common. I get my water through the West Manchester Township Idiot Association, who recently decided that all households should pay the same regardless of usage. So, this township, outside York, PA, collects a flat rate of $127.00 a month whether there are 6 people living in your house or only one. It was too hard for these simpletons to figure out how to use the fancy monitors they put in a couple of years ago to bill for usage.

  22. Scuba Steve says:

    He should hold a carwash to raise the money to pay the water bill.

  23. WhatThe... says:

    @Shutterman: Ah, so it’s likely a printing error where the second side wasn’t ran on a run of the sheets. They need sent back to the printer, which could be easier said than done.

  24. sir_eccles says:

    @MonkeyMonk: No, did it say anything important? :-)

  25. upokyin says:

    @MonkeyMonk: The real question is: did the editor who posted this letter read it before writing a headline?

  26. ethanrik says:

    Ah yeah, ahhhh quit whining bitch! At least you can afford a house, possibly two where you moved to; do you own one there also?

    Just put your bill into different envelope or pay it on-line via bill-pay and your bank, end of story!

  27. hmk says:

    @ethanrik: is it so hard to see the humor here?

  28. dr.slick says:

    I love the carwash idea to pay the bill. How about getting a few really long hoses and powerwashing all of the neighbors houses and driveways? Around here they charge hundreds for that, so all it would take is one house to cover the bill.

  29. bohemian says:

    Man I thought our water bill shakedown before usage was bad. Ours is about $40 before water usage. Of course the city whines that they have to keep adding to the system and building onto it due to high demand. Nothing is done about those who are the real cause. The idiots that water their lawn every day and refill their pool three times in a summer.

  30. Trai_Dep says:

    @ethanrik: Humbly nominate for a perma-ban.
    @sir_eccles: hat’s off to your patient presence here, explaining why (and why you didn’t) submit your experience. Sigh, if only more commentators read the article before adding their two cents. Good contribution on your part!

  31. Coles_Law says:

    Wow-my water bill is only about a third of that with usage. More shocking is the return envelope. I wouldn’t have even noticed that until the thing was returned to me. Heck, I may have sent it out a few times before figuring it out.

  32. Buran says:

    @humphrmi: Why? That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the house. It just means that no one lives there.

  33. lettere says:

    Maybe the village idiot is running the Village of Ruidoso.

  34. k6richar says:

    @ogman: More likely the town council was comprised of people who water their huge lawn twice a day and found their water bill to be too high.

  35. @humphrmi: Hmm… I’ve never been shown an empty house with the water ON. Electric, yes. Heat/AC.. maybe in the winter, if it’s gets that cold. But water? Never. But I’m in CA: Maybe it’s a regional thing? Maybe they need to keep the water on so the pipes don’t freeze?

  36. scoosdad says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee (star deficient): I’d sure want to check at least three things that need the water turned on before I’d consider making an offer on a house:

    a) water pressure
    b) water quality (i.e. lack of a strong odor or presence of any funny coloration)
    c) check the toilets and sinks to make sure they drain properly

  37. Buran says:

    @scoosdad: Water pressure and color/taste are the responsibility of the utility, not the homeowner, and if you’re that concerned about the drainage, you can always bring some water with you.

  38. Hawk07 says:


    What does his ability to pay for one/two houses have to do with anything?

    The only homeowners you should be upset with are the ones that freely entered into a huge mortgage with the idea that it’d be a good investment, and then ended up walking away when they owed hundreds of thousands more than what the home was worth. Those are the deadbeat homeowners that the banks need to go after and screw it up for borrowers thereafter.

  39. Hawk07 says:

    I would also recommend to this homeowner that he look into getting his home cutoff off it’s going to be vacant for the time being. Or, he could at least try to negotiate with a manager to get it reduced for a small, nominal fee to maintain his account rather than paying a minimum rate for a service he won’t be using.

  40. K-Bo says:

    @Buran: Yes, pressure and color/taste are responsibility of the utility, but I’d rather know when deciding if it is the house for me. Not like you can call the utility after it’s turned on and you find out some thing’s wrong and expect them to fix it in 2 hours (or ever really )

  41. ColoradoShark says:

    @edrebber: Check into a previous Consumerist article where the buyer of a new home did not test drainage. He filled the tub, took a bath, pulled the plug and the water drained into the space between the floor and ceiling. The ceiling collapsed and caused bunches of damage.

    I might make an offer on a house with the water turned off but it better be on for a few days before it gets inspected so I can see there are no leaks and everything drains properly.

  42. Buran says:

    @K-Bo: My point is, you’d have that same problem with any other house in the area.

  43. BOO_BOO_HOFF says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. We bought a coop last month in Manhattan, and it’s been vacant for a month as we show it for rental. I got the Con Edison gas/electric bill on Friday: $115.00 for no gas usage and just a few kwh for lights left on.

    Of course that was based on an “estimated” meter reading, plus charges for reading the meter. What I’d like to know is why they need to do an estimated reading when all the meters for the building are in the same place in the maintenance hallway. Too lazy to look, huh? So why are you charging us for reading the meter?

  44. OsiUmenyiora says:

    I worked for the local water and sewer utility and am VERY well versed in this subject. Quite simply, there’s a minimum charge for every utility as long as you have an open account. Gas, electric, phone, water…whatever.

    And the reason is very simple: it costs the utility money to make the service available to you whether you use it or not. You may not use water for a month, but there’s still a cost associted with making the water available to you for those 30 days. You didn’t use any water, but the utility still collected the water, treated the water and brought the water to the water main in front of your house so that you could use it any time you wanted to. If you want to pay zero then cancel your account.

  45. MercuryPDX says:

    @Buran: I checked the water pressure of the shower before I bought my house. You also can’t tell if anything’s leaking if it’s shut off at the main for an extended period of time.

  46. K-Bo says:

    @Buran: but I’d rather know about the problem, so I can possibly choose a house on a different utilities provider. I know that’s not always an option for everyone, but where I live, I could be on 3 different water systems within a 10 min drive from my work, so that could affect my choice.

  47. vastrightwing says:

    This is exactly why people should not conserve water: cities will whine they aren’t making enough revenue and do things like charge everyone confiscatory high rates and high fixed fees to cover the conservation efforts. Drill a well and septic and get off the water/sewer system.

  48. Jim says:

    @scoosdad: Checking the water incoming and outgoing should be part of your home inspection.

    In Indiana, vacant houses on the market are winterized so the pipes don’t freeze, so before your inspection, you have to get utilities turned on so the house will heat and the water will flow and nothing gets broken. In theory. If your listing agent fails any of the steps involved, you get plumbers in your new house every day for 2 weeks.

  49. officeboy says:

    As a worker at a fine public utility, I would really like to see the lower 1/2 of this bill.

    I have a hunch there may be more service being paid for then is known. If this was water/sewer/garbage. Then it might not be unreasonable.

  50. humphrmi says:

    @Buran: Or, it means that something’s wrong with the plumbing that they don’t want you to find out about by flushing the toilets, running water, etc.

  51. thejynxed says:

    @ogman: I used to live in York, Manchester, York Haven, Springettsberry Township and a few other places in that neck of the woods. Utilities in that area have always been ridiculous.

  52. noisetube says:

    The cities in New Mexico are notoriously bad when it comes to billing for usage. I live in southern NM and the city charged me $180 in gas bills.. when there was zero usage and they hadn’t even lit my pilot lights. I fought with the city for months, pointing out that they had never turned my gas on but decided to charge me for it nonetheless. Each time it was, “oh, okay, we’ve turned it off and you won’t be billed.” Guess what came yesterday in the mail? A $180 collections bill from the city from over a year ago.