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Water Rates Rise, Customers Dislike Water Utility

Water Rates Rise, Customers Dislike Water Utility

Company Receives Dismal Customer Satisfaction Score

Albuquerque area residents who will be hit with a 5 percent hike in the water and sewer bills beginning July 1 don’t seem to like their water utility.

According to a new J.D Power poll, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority had one of the worst customer satisfaction scores of 87 of the nation’s largest water utilities. The water authority placed 80th out of the 87 utilities in the survey.

J.D. Power based its rankings on 33 conditions in six major areas: delivery, price, conservation, billing and payment, communications, and customer satisfaction.

The ABCWUA received an overall customer satisfaction score of 668 out of a possible 1,000 points. It had the lowest score of 24 large utilities in the West. And this year’s score was slightly lower than last year’s score of 671.

ABCWUA’s lowest score was in the area of the delivery of water and the reliability of service, said Andrew Heath, director of the Utility Practice at J.D. Power. The utility had one of the lowest scores in the nation in that area, Heath said, adding that “that is the area where it has the greatest room for improvement.”

The utility had its highest marks in the billing and payment category, but it was still below the national average in that area, Heath said.

The J.D. Power survey shows that there is a disconnect between what the water utility’s staff is telling the agency’s board about its customer outreach efforts, said Albuquerque activist Elaine Hebard.

“What the customer is telling the utility and what the utility is telling the board, well, there is a disconnect there,” Hebard said.

The St. Paul. Minn., utility had the highest customer satisfaction score at 732 points, while the Cleveland utility had the lowest score at 635 points.

The 5 percent rate hike approved by the ABCWUA’s board Wednesday night will cost the average residential customer an extra $2.75 a month, or $33 a year.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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