OPINION: If this column was a paperback thriller, the enticing blurb on the back cover might read like this:
“Todd Niall spent decades using as little water as possible and his move into a modern, water-frugal home was a dream come true. When the first water bill arrived, his orderly world was turned upside down.
“Could anything be trusted again, and were the neighbours giving him the evil eye?”
Thirty years of rural living, with a tank fed only by rainwater, makes you very water-conscious by necessity.
* Wellington mayors split over proposal for water meters in homes across the region
* Universal water metering in Wellington necessary to avoid drought-like summer conditions, report says
* Auckland drought: Household hose ban eased for summer
Add to that my permanent scars from living through, and reporting on, Auckland’s real water crisis of 1994 – when the dams fell to about 30 per cent and there was no Waikato River backstop. Auckland came close to running out.
In 2020, drought has struck again, but restraint should do the job.
So when we moved recently to a modern home with every water-saving device known to society, and rain-fed grey water tanks for the toilet and laundry, the dream of city-convenient water frugality had come true.
Then our first-ever metered water bill arrived. In just six weeks, the two of us had used 24,000 litres.
That’s one and a quarter standard rural water tanks, a volume of water we used to make last for months.
Watercare’s call centre was far less distressed than I and we agreed to wait for one more bill.
But my P94TSD (Post-1994 Traumatic Stress Disorder) was kicking in. I could barely sleep, pondering how we could be losing perhaps 10,000 litres a month. Was a sinkhole forming under our house?
Worse still, was it forming under the row of terrace houses we had moved into, which might all be dragged to a watery grave in the dead of night?
Tests were called for: The overnight-turn-off-and-check meter test. Horror. While sleeping we had used 260 litres, a two-person home’s daily consumption. Were we single-handedly draining the dams?
At this point I appealed for help further up in Watercare, and the company’s expertise was brought to bear.
A new test was advised. Turn off our meter, and run a tap. We did, and the tap still ran. But another water meter near ours spun precisely in sync with our tap running. This could mean only one thing.
Our meter was not our meter. Our meter was actually another one in the bank of 10 outside our fence.
We were being billed for someone else’s water life, and someone else was getting…