3 Water Billing Best Practices for Local Water Districts

In this blog, we share three best practices that will improve operations and cost recovery for your municipal water district.

Local and municipal water districts rely on a steady flow of predictable billing income to properly budget and provide reliable service to your municipality or service area. When that income becomes unpredictable, it can impact service and make your job even harder.

The good news is there are basic best practices for utility billing water districts can use to improve their billing process. These improvements will ensure residents have everything they need to pay water bills on time, making cashflow more predictable.

3 Billing Best Practices for Municipal and Rural Water Districts

Best Practice #1: Send Fair, Defensible Bills with Full Information

Residents are more educated now than ever before. That means residents expect to see the detail in a bill to make sure it’s justified. This is why sending fair and defensible water bills with a full breakdown of usage and billing rates is so important. If a resident in your service area receives a water bill they feel is unjustified, the likelihood that they won’t pay that bill increases.

First, look at the bills you are currently sending and make sure there is no room for any confusion. Be transparent about your billing rates and all relevant usage metrics. If your bills are missing information residents expect to see, your odds increase they will dispute the bill.

Another solution to making sure water usage metrics are accurate is to perform an audit to ensure your water meters are in good working order. Especially in rural water districts with outdated meters, it can be challenging to get full and accurate water usage readings. Updating metering equipment to remote read meters help your team save time while ensuring meter reads are accurate.

Outdated metering equipment coupled with harsh seasonal weather conditions can also contribute to another major billing problem: water leaks. Depending on where a leak is in your water distribution infrastructure, that leak can increase resident bills to inaccurate levels. That increase will cause more residents to dispute their bill, leading to even more late payments and non-payments.

While it’s tough for more rural districts to allocate resources to hardware and water billing system improvements, those improvements could lead to better cost recovery in the future.

Best Practice #2: Send Bills at a Consistent, Predictable Cadence

Another overlooked part of billing is sending bills at a consistent and predictable cadence. Ideally this means sending monthly bills on the same day each month.

It’s important to meet your residents where they are as best as you can. Consider residents who may be living paycheck to paycheck. Those residents will likely expect certain expenses at certain times. A delay of even a few days can cause hardship for them and reduce their ability to remit payment on time.

Regardless of your water district’s billing cadence, whether it’s quarterly, biannually or annually, it’s most important that residents know exactly when they can expect their bill. That knowledge allows them to budget accordingly leading to more bills paid on time and in full.

Best Practice #3: Improve the Customer Experience where Possible

If your water district is still using outdated software and only sending bills by mail, improving your billing process should be a priority. These days, your customers have no tolerance for an outdated bill payment system or frustrating phone trees to get in touch with a representative.

While paying a water bill is nobody’s favorite task, there solutions available that make it as painless as possible for resident, further ensuring your water district recovers that bill. Here are a few tips:

  • Provide digital tools that let residents view usage and past bills, so they can plan their future water usage to meet their budget.
  • Offer a variety of bill payment options, including online bill payment and auto payment options.
  • Have customer service representatives available to answer questions by phone, email and text chat if possible.
  • Give resident the option for bill delivery, whether that’s paper billing or paperless billing.

Outsourced Water Billing for Water Districts

Implementing these best practices is easier said than done when you have tight resources and other responsibilities to juggle. Deciding between new billing software, finding customer service and contact center options, and auditing metering hardware are all major challenges and time investments without the right expertise.

That’s why many water districts have started working with an outsourced water billing provider to improve their billing process and operations.

An outsourced billing provider can offer water districts invaluable expertise about water billing that leads to increased cost recovery. An outsourced provider can also take water billing tasks completely off your team’s plate. This allows you to focus on your core tasks and competencies while simplifying your billing processes, increasing cost recovery and providing better overall service to residence in your district.

That’s why firms like Synergy exist. We can handle all aspects of your water billing system from consultation and system optimization to bill generation and collection. We’re here to help you improve your operations by taking water billing completely off your plate.

Get in touch with Synergy. Our water billing experts will be happy to help your water district improve your cost recovery rate, while allowing your team to focus their time on more impactful work for your water district.