12th April 2016 Allotment Water Meeting

Celia Hart
Adrian Jones
Richard Dunstone

We worked through the issues in the order they were addressed in Welsh Water’s email to AJ on 14 Oct 2015.

i) Over sized metered supplies on some sites incurring a high service charge

Welsh Water has provided estimates of the cost of reducing the size of the meters at Greenway Road and Lynton Terrace but not for any of the other sites. RD has calculated the pay-back period for these two. There’s no advantage to waiting to receive costs for all meters before making decisions, since each needs to be considered case-by-case. It was agreed that the expense of downsizing the Greenway Road meter would be recouped quickly, so we should go ahead. The work at Lynton Terrace might take many years to pay for itself, so should not be pursued now.

ACTION AJ : Write to Welsh Water and ask them to down-size Greenway Road’s meter to 20mm

ACTION AJ : Write to or phone Welsh Water to chase costs on downsizing the other meters with diameters greater than 20mm (Flaxland 50mm, Forest Farm 40, Pengham Pavilion 40, Pontcanna Permanent 40, Rhydypenau 40, Pontcanna Permanent 30 and Lady Mary 25)

ii) Sewerage charges and the feasibility of claiming Surface Water Rebate and Non-return to Sewer Relief

Some sites have toilets but are not paying sewerage charges. Agreed we need to ‘own up’ to Welsh Water and initiate discussions about claiming the reliefs and at what level. Surface Water rebate is available where rain water does not enter the sewers (and is straightforward). Non-return to Sewer Relief applies where a proportion of the mains water supplied is not returned to the sewer after use. This second one is subject to negotiation.

Any evidence on how much water is used in toilet blocks compared to allotments would be useful. Sub-meters may already exist for at least some of the toilet blocks.

ACTION RD : circulate a list of sites that should be paying sewerage charges but are not (see below)

Sites paying for sewerage:
Sites not paying but have WCs :
Pengham Pavilion

‘Serves Mess Room and Changing Room’ – this supply has a large diameter and incurs sewerage charges, so even though no water is being used, the standing charges are substantial (over £850 per annum). We believe the building it serves is disused, but are nervous of having it disconnected in case someone wants to bring it back into use in the future. Consensus that it was daft to spend so much on a supply that wasn’t being used, and that if someone wanted to keep it active ‘just in case’, it wasn’t the allotments service so it shouldn’t be coming out of the allotments budget.

ACTION AJ : to follow up with colleagues whether it can be disconnected and if not, whose budget should bear the cost.

‘Pontcanna Cotts and Allots Western’ is the supply feeding Llandaff Fields, Pontcanna A, the toilet block and two private houses. It has been using a lot of water and costing a lot of money but Cardiff CC has repaired the leak in 2015, resulting in a very substantial reduction in water use. The opportunity for getting the water main adopted by Welsh Water has been missed, so Cardiff CC now needs to set up an internal system for reading the meters and re-billing the private houses.

ACTION AJ : to speak to colleagues about setting up this system.

iii) Clarity of naming of sites on bills

We now know which bill applies to which allotment site, but it’s taken some effort to get to this position and it would be good to make life easier for our successors. Welsh Water have said they are happy to consider using whatever names we want.

ACTION CH : Write to Welsh Water to tell them what name we’d like to be used for each meter. Also provide them with an appropriate address for bills to be sent, so that they reach the right person quickly.

iv) Frequency and timing of bills

Welsh Water has indicated that this can not be amended. CH unhappy with this response but RD explained that the frequency of bills is set out in Welsh Water’s statutory ‘Charges Scheme’ which has to be agreed with OFWAT and can not be tinkered with.

v) Access to meters to take our own readings to better track water consumption

RD has set up an Cardiff Allotment water meter readings. Unfortunately it is not well used, and inaccessible via the council’s office IT systems. For most sites, the only data on it comes from Welsh Water’s bills (and there are gaps).

We’ll need to consider access to read meters case-by-case. Welsh Water have offered to help us to locate them, but between Dave Jenkins, RD and site Secretaries we have probably located most if not all of them.

Celia asked which of the sites which have toilets have 15mm supplies.

ACTION RD: supply a list of sites with toilet blocks and 15mm supplies (see below):

Sites with W.C.s Supply diameter (mm)
Birchgrove 15mm
Highfields 15mm
Cotts & Allots 15mm
Allensbank 15mm
Pengham Pavilion 40mm

vi) Turning off water supplies over winter

Welsh Water suggested we ask for temporary disconnection every winter, then re-connect at a cost of £35 every spring. AJ thought this might be worth doing. RD was concerned that the cost of turning the water off and back on again would be almost as much as the annual standing charge for most sites. For many sites the Site Secretary is happy to do this free of charge. At other sites where the stop tap is inaccessible it might be worth paying. Sites need to be considered case-by-case.

This concluded the issues discussed in Welsh Water’s email. Other issues were:

Current Leaks

Greenway Road near Plot 103 – this is in part of the site where the plumbing has not been replaced. The supply has been turned off pending repair.
Elgar Crescent – a leak has been spotted and the supply turned off.
Birchgrove near plot 149.
Llandaff North – analysis of the water bills suggests it’s using more water than expected and there may be a leak. However, there are no recent meter readings and extensive repairs were carried out last year. It’s likely that the leaks have been resolved since the readings were taken.
Flaxland – analysis of the water bills suggests it’s using more water than expected and there is probably a leak. Nothing is visible at the surface. There has been no progress on this.

RD expressed concern about lack of capacity within the Council to deal with these issues. There are professional contractors who carry out this type of work and could supplement the in-house expertise. Depending on the scale of the leaks, this could be cost-effective. Also concerned that plotholders have a reasonable expectation to have a water supply during the growing season, and that turning off the supply is no substitute for repairing leaks.

Missing Bills

CH has provided a set of 2015 water bills to RD via Gareth Holden, and RD has entered them onto the online system, however some bills were missing so the analysis is incomplete.

ACTION RD: send CH a list of which bills are missing (completed 12/4/16)
ACTION CH: locate the missing bills and make them available to RD

Asset Renewal

Adrian will be allocating funds for asset renewal over the next few weeks / months.

RJD 13 May 2016

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