OGDEN, Utah – A Utah homeowner was billed for 1.4 million gallons of water for part of last winter, and even though Rick Baur disputes it, he paid the bill.
"I was blown away," said Baur, an Ogden resident who made good on the $9,700 bill in August. "It's enough to buy a used car."
That much water, the Standard-Examiner calculated, is enough to fill a swimming pool at Ben Lomond High School seven times — or a typical home pool 70 times.
The bill was for Dec. 19 to April 4, typically when residential water consumption is at its lowest of the year.
Baur said he irrigates only about a third of his 2-acre parcel and could never use that much water in any season.
What's more, he and his wife didn't use any water at home from mid-December to early January because they were vacationing in the Virgin Islands.
"Something strange is going on," said Craig Frisbee, the city's water utility manager, who said he might issue Baur a hardship credit but nonetheless defended the billing. "When water goes through a meter, they (customers) are obligated to pay for that."
The city and a plumber couldn't find any pipe or lawn sprinkler leaks and say they found Baur's meter working properly.
For the period in dispute, the water meter was spinning continuously at 72 percent of capacity, said George Benford, Ogden's public services director.
"I've never heard of anybody using that much water," Benford said. "I can't imagine it. It's odd. That's the level you would use when you get to a manufacturing facility."
Bo Hoskins, an Ogden plumber, said, "It's pretty crazy."
The city called Rick Baur to let him know the bill was coming "so he wouldn't have a heart attack," said his wife, Monica. "I thought it was a joke, but they made us pay it."
Although the couple paid the $9,700, they aren't out of the woods yet. The city says they owe $1,700 for water usage in August.