At the Idyllwild Water District meeting of Wednesday, July 19, Bob Geary, a member of the public, commented on the $3,518.29 water bill he and his partner received, which bill claimed that 249,308 gallons of water were delivered by IWD to their home during the 30-day period from June 2 to July 2 of this year. Geary and his partner, David Bridgman, are part-time residents.

Geary states that there were no signs of any water leak at their Idyllwild residence. At his request, IWD tested their meter after the fact and determined that it was in proper working order. IWD has offered to split the bill with Geary and Bridgman as part of IWD’s one-time-per-customer “catastrophic event forgiveness” policy, but that will still leave them on the hook for more than $1,750 for that one-month bill.

Geary has read that water meters can be tampered with by third parties and he suspects someone of having tampered with their meter. He does not believe that more than 249,000 gallons of water — or even half that — were actually delivered by IWD to their Idyllwild residence. And IWD expects to be paid for at least half of that under its one-time catastrophic event policy.

In an interview with the Town Crier, IWD Chief Finance Officer Hosny Shouman stated that he believes 249,308 gallons of water really were delivered by IWD to the Geary-Bridgman residence during that one month. He said he had no explanation for where that amount of water went, but stated he suspected that someone may have stolen the water from the part-time residents while they were away from Idyllwild.

The Town Crier has done a little online research in analyzing this matter. It appears that “large” water tank trucks typically are capable of holding between 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of water. Even at the huge 12,000-gallon size, it would take more than 20 such truckloads to carry away more than 249,000 gallons of water.

We also tested a typical garden-hose bib and determined that it took 12 seconds for a gallon of water to flow from that bib with the faucet valve fully open. That would be 5 gallons per minute or 300 gallons per hour. At that rate, it would take 40 hours — one and two-thirds days — to fill one 12,000-gallon tank truck. Even if the tankers were lined up 24/7 waiting to be filled, it would take 33 days — more days than in any month — to carry away 249,000 gallons. And there would never be a time when a 12,000-gallon tanker was not parked and being filled at the Geary-Bridgman residence during that 33-day period.

Even if two fully opened bibs were capable of each emitting a gallon of water in 12 seconds simultaneously (they weren’t, in our case, we checked that, too), it would still take 20 hours to fill one 12,000-gallon tanker — with 19 more such tankers to be filled.

The Town Crier also spoke to IWD Interim General Manager Jack Hoagland regarding this matter. He stated that while 249,000 gallons is a lot to show up on a residential meter, it is but a small percentage of the district’s monthly output, so it would raise no red flags at the district’s end of operations. And IWD does have commercial or institutional customers who do use that amount of water or more.

One might expect a water leak of that size to produce gross signs of leakage around a residence, but Hoagland stated that, depending upon location and soil conditions, that amount of water could disappear underground at a residence without leaving signs of leakage. When asked if he felt that IWD really did deliver more than 290,000 gallons of water to the Geary-Bridgman residence that month, Hoagland replied that all he could say is that the water meter is evidence that IWD did deliver that amount of water, and he knows of no evidence to the contrary.

But Hoagland admits to being “as much in the dark” about what happened to that water as anyone else. He does say, however, that since Geary and Bridgman have reason to suspect third-party tampering with their meter, he is willing to work with them to secure their meter in some way — as requested by Geary at the last IWD meeting — because of their particular circumstances.