The Norman Transcript

May 17, 2013

City water customer says site identifying high water users is misleading

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A social media website identifying Norman residents as high water users is factually misleading, according to one Norman homeowner who made the list.

A graphic posted by Casey Holcomb on the University of Oklahoma Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability Facebook site lists the top water consumers in Norman based on city utility records. Holcomb said Sierra Club Red Earth Group chair Mike Givel made an FOI request for the information in January.

Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said he had no idea those numbers would end up on the Internet, but the information is a matter of public record.

Records may not lie, but they don’t always tell the whole story.

Fourth on the residential top user list is former Chamber of Commerce Board President and one-time mayoral candidate Trey Bates.

Bates said no one asked him why his water bill is so high before publishing his name on the Internet. In fact, Bates’ home shares a meter with another home because of unusual circumstances that unfolded in an area where most homes had private wells years ago.

“My real name is Russell Bates, and that’s what I list my accounts under,” he said. “Someone went through and changed it to Trey, which is what I go by.”

Bates said he believes the name change shows a deliberate attempt to identify him specifically.

“I share a meter with another family,” Bates said. “We have a well, so we actually use very little water. What we actually use is for bathing and for inside the house. We don’t use any city water for irrigation at all. The other family that’s on our shared meter does irrigate because they don’t have a water well, and they have a large piece of property.”

Bates said despite that, his family’s city water usage is much less than his neighbor’s. Dividing the amount in half makes the number look different.

“If you took the total amount of water and divided it by two houses, it doesn’t even make that list. I try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I don’t live that way,” Bates said.

Dr. Jeff Crook’s family shares the meter with the Bates family. The Crook home was one of the last homes built in that neighborhood.

To the best of Bates’ knowledge, the owners of the two homes at that time put in a private water line and shared the expenses because the Crook home didn’t have a water well.

It’s an odd circumstance that resulted in two neighbors sharing a water meter.

Joy Hampton