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Industry Updates: WPSC

PSC Special alert

Tuesday, February 11, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michael Heyroth
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Utilities Directing Customers to Run Water to Prevent Freezing


MADISON - Due to record low temperatures placing utilities’ underground water facilities in jeopardy of freezing, numerous utilities have issued notices to customers advising them to run a stream of water to prevent freezing.


As a reminder, Section 185.35(7) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code provides that "Where, because of some deficiency in the utility's portion of the facilities and at the request of the utility, a customer permits a stream of water to flow to prevent freezing of the service or main, the utility shall adjust the bill for the excess consumption which results.”  This means that a utility must still bill its customers based on actual consumption (meter readings), but the utility is required to adjust the bill to reflect water used to prevent freezing.


The decision to issue a request to run water rests with each utility, as the utility is in the best position to determine if a request for customers to run water is needed to prevent the freezing of the service or main. Any adjustment to a customer’s bills for the excess consumption should be reasonable and should take into account the amount of water the utility directs the customers to run (e.g., the diameter or thickness of the stream of water), the amount of time customers are directed to run water, and any other relevant factors.


Several utilities have contacted the Public Service Commission (Commission) with questions about thawing a customer’s lateral.  This issue is addressed by Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 185.88.  In general, a customer is responsible for maintaining their portion of the lateral.  However, if the customer’s lateral is electrically conductive, the first thaw is at the utility’s expense, if the utility has not provided the customer with seasonal notice of the correction actions to be taken.


Additional detailed information about this topic is available on the Commission’s website as a Frequently Asked Question at:


If you have any questions regarding billing adjustments, please contact Drew Cardon, PSC Consumer Analyst, at (608) 267-9814 or by email at If you have any questions regarding frozen laterals, please address them to Peter Feneht, PSC Staff Engineer, at (608) 266-5614 or by email at

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