Reading the letter “Is there any change to change this poorly managed ‘growth’ of Calistoga?” (dated Sept. 6) in the Sept. 7 publication of The Weekly Calistogan, the author made a few claims which are inaccurate. The purpose of this letter is simply to provide corrected information.

“The average water bill in Calistoga is over $200 a month.”

The City of Calistoga conducts water/wastewater analyses for purposes of estimating annual revenues, adopting new utility rates, and planning for future infrastructure upgrades, among other reasons. First, when most people use the term “water bill,” they are likely referring to their bimonthly bill, which includes water and wastewater. Customers are, in fact, paying for services related to two very different utility operations. Second, while every water and wastewater customer is different (meaning they have different needs and use different amounts of water/wastewater), the average residential water/wastewater bill is $114.30 per month, not over $200 a month. Because the City bills residential customers on a bimonthly basis, the average bimonthly bill is approximately $228.60. All other customers (non-residential) are billed monthly. (See the attached breakdown, which shows average usage per account.)

While it is true that customers using larger amounts of water would pay up to $200 per month –- and sometimes more –- that is because the customer is using more water. We do have cost-share programs where the City provides grant money to help homeowners reduce their water consumption. Examples of successful efforts include cash-for-grass rebates, high efficiency toilet installations, and high efficiency appliance rebates. Give us a call if the water portion of your bill is over $200 and let’s get you some money to save some more money! Contact the Public Works Department at 707-942-2828.

“Often, poor families and the elderly buy bottled water for safety.”

The cost to provide public drinking water is expensive and includes collecting, treating and distributing water to your tap. To do this, the City must hire employees, build infrastructure and pay debt service among other activities. Still, the cost per unit of public drinking water remains considerably less than the cost of retail bottled water. It is a personal choice to buy bottled water but I assure this reader and any others that our water is safe to drink and if it was unsafe, we will tell you! Please take a look at our 2016 Water Quality Report (2016 Drinking Water Quality Report, and ask questions if you really want to learn more about water quality. We have an excellent staff that cares about this service they provide to you. In addition, we have an excellent emergency services department who will deliver water to you when an emergency arises. But regarding water treatment, I have personally toured our treatment facilities many times to learn about safe and reliable water and wastewater services in this community.

“Three times during this non-drought year I have turned on the tap to find brown water flowing.”

I am very sorry this occurred and in fact, it happened to others during the year who reported discoloration and smell in tap water. Unfortunately, the occurrences are normal for all water systems. The causes are numerous so we always encourage residents to contact the City when they notice any abnormality in their tap water so we may help identify the cause and act should there be a public health concern.

The City performs water quality testing daily at both our treatment plant and throughout the water system. We provide public reports and even public notice if/when an issue would arise. Simply because water turns a different color does not mean it is harmful or unsafe to drink. Here are some probable reasons for discolored water in Calistoga:

1. Flushing. When the City cleans the inside of a water main, we call it “flushing.” The process includes isolating portions of the distribution system and then flushing significant amounts of water through the line. This process can disrupt the water main line which is likely an 80-year old pipe. During the drought, the City had less water available to flush our water mains, so we did less than normal. During this recent non-drought year, and because we were preparing to drain the Kimball Reservoir for a project, we performed extra flushing.

2. Private service problem. It is a very common problem for private water services (portion between the water main and your tap, or from the meter to your tap) to develop a problem. In those cases, residents report discolored water and when we arrive to inspect, the City main is clear but the private tap is discharging brown water. A broken pipe, construction project or plumbing issue could be the cause.

3. NBA Waterline. The City has three sources of water – Kimball Reservoir, recycled water, and the North Bay Aqueduct, or NBA. NBA water comes from the Delta, is processed in Jameson Canyon by the City of Napa, and is piped 38 miles to Calistoga then added to our water supply. To keep things simple enough, this water can have an extended detention time, can be shut down because of a main break, or could be turned offline for routine maintenance. So something that occurs over a 38-mile stretch can have an impact on water quality, pressure and availability in our small community.

Again, when you notice discolored water, we want to hear about it!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Dylan Feik

City Manager