A worst-case water scenario

Imagine receiving a water bill that seems significantly higher than usual, but you and your family haven’t changed water usage in months. What could it be? Is that tree outside suddenly looking plump? Is the lawn squishier than usual? Suddenly, you realize an underground water line must have burst. Maybe something like this or worse happened to you, or you know someone else who encountered a water line break and had to pay for repairs.

“That would be the water line going from the meter to your house,” said Truckee Meadows Water Authority Communications Specialist Robert Charpentier. “So, if there’s a break there, it’s on the homeowner, and it can be pretty pricey, particularly if you’ve got trees or landscaping growing over it and excavation is required.”

TMWA partners with Service Line Warranties of America

To mitigate some of these costs, TMWA partnered with Service Line Warranties of America to create an $8,500 warranty program for water line failures. The warranty covers $8,500 per instance with no limit to the number of service calls per year. It costs $5.75 per month, plus applicable taxes, and has a 30-day waiting period between sign-up and the first covered event.

“We worked on the partnership for about three years starting back in August 2020,” said Marci Westlake, Customer Service Manager at Truckee Meadows Water Authority. “We were faced with some pretty big hardships for customers, and we had some pretty bad service line leaks.”

One couple noticed their TMWA bill and usage rates increasing rapidly and could see the meter spinning; but the water line break wasn’t immediately visible. Because it was on the customer’s property, TMWA could not intervene, so the couple was responsible for hefty repairs and the water bill. Westlake and the board at TMWA wanted a solution to help keep customers from being hit with such large costs in the future.

Aging infrastructure and old trees with large roots breaking through pipes and even construction projects, such as adding or repairing concrete driveways that have water pipes under them, can cause water line breaks.

How TMWA and SLWA work together

Service Line Warranties of America partners with water utilities and other companies in certain cities and is not accessible to just anyone. Westlake said SLWA vets the region first to ensure certified plumbers and contractors are available to perform repair work. The water authority enters into an agreement to offer the service to customers.

TMWA’s partnership with SLWA is a voluntary option for the over 135,000 customers TMWA serves. But Westlake wants to make clear that TMWA and SLWA are still separate entities.

“TMWA is not getting anything for it. I just know how much it affects people,” Westlake said. “I get people calling me, and they’re frustrated, sad, depressed, ‘I’ve just had to spend $10,000 on a fix, and how am I going to pay this water bill on top of it?’ We get that all the time, so I got frustrated hearing that we needed to do something, so here is an option.”

Do the calculus and decide for yourself

SLWA also offers, in addition to water line coverage, exterior sewer/septic line coverage and interior plumbing and drainage coverage. Westlake and Charpentier also note that this warranty service can go on top of existing or additional homeowners’ insurance. Users on NextDoor.com noted that State Farm, USAA, and other homeowners’ insurance companies will cover water line damages or that the coverage can be added.

“People should call their homeowners insurance as well and check out the costs,” Charpentier said. “That might be a better deal for them, or they may just be more comfortable with their existing policy.”

Charpentier encourages customers to do the math and carefully check their coverage options. In the case of a catastrophic breakdown that costs $20,000, the warranty will only cover $8,500, so additional insurance would help mitigate the remaining costs.

SLWA made a landing page for TMWA customers to learn more about the three coverage options at https://www.slwofa.com/mail/truckee-bk.

Watch the full video interview to learn more about the program and other water-related programs we learned about from TMWA


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