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Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Is $100 worth filling out this survey?

By From page A2 | May 02, 2013

No, it’s not Powerball, but the city we all love is offering a chance to win serious money to anyone willing to fill out the intensive and extensive “City of Davis 2013 Residential Water Use Survey” that arrived in most of our mailboxes one day last month. Unfortunately,

I didn’t get around to reading it until yesterday, so maybe the contest is already over and I’m no longer eligible to win the top prize.
The survey, which runs to four full pages and involves several dozen detailed questions, is costing the city in excess of $100,000 – or about the cost of your average East Davis starter home with indoor plumbing.

Although it is a seemingly mindless multiple-choice survey, some of the questions have as many as 10 possible answers, which is why the city is offering the chance at big money so people don’t get bogged down halfway through and give up the ghost.

If you have most of a Sunday afternoon to fill this thing out, have at it, but if you don’t, not to worry. It just means I’ll have a better chance to take home the bacon.

OK, enough talk about money. Here’s the deal. If you respond to the survey — again, I don’t know if the deadline has passed — you’ll be “entered into a drawing for $100,” or about what your monthly water bill will look like in a couple of years.

“Complete and return this paper survey in the provided envelope,” the city advises, “or better yet, respond online and we’ll double your chances of drawing the $100.”

I think I’d rather have one chance at $200 than two chances at $100, but either way this seems incredibly unfair to those citizens who are technologically challenged and still do all their corresponding using paper, pen, envelope and a 46-cent stamp.

“If you’re short on time, please answer just the first four questions,” the city adds, without revealing whether or not filling out just the first four questions will still qualify you for the big cash prize.

No matter, because as a civic-minded individual who could use a 100-item shopping spree at the Dollar Tree, I plan to fill out every question available in triplicate.

But first, the city promises on a stack of Bibles that “All information you provide will be confidential.”

Unless Mr. Goofy Gadfly files a freedom of information lawsuit and demands all correspondence between you and the city of Davis. Then you’re toast.

“Do you water your yard?” the city wants to know. The choices are simple: “1. Yes, year-round; 2. Yes, but not in winter; 3. No, I don’t have a yard; 4. No, I don’t water my yard; 5. Yes, unpredictably.”

I think No. 5 fits me best. Sometimes you’ll catch me in the back yard at 3 in the morning, watering everything by hand. I especially like to water the yard in the middle of a thunderstorm. I find it’s best to keep the lawn guessing.

“In summer, approximately how many gallons of water per day would you guess your household uses?”

Now wait a minute, you’re the ones who hired that guy who rides around on his bicycle reading my water meter every other month with his magic wand. Why don’t you ask him? He certainly knows much more about my daily water usage than I do.

“To what extent do you agree or disagree that the City of Davis makes it easy for you to save money on your water bill?”

You’re kidding, right? Are you truly not aware that the City Council just unanimously instituted a water rate so complicated that even Bill Gates’ attorney can’t figure it out?

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statements — I’m interested in spending less on my water bills.”

Um, well, actually I’m interested in spending more on my water bills to help the city pay off that massive $113 million water project.

“How many toilets do you have in your home?”

Working toilets or just toilets?

“Of these toilets, how many use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or less?”

Now you’re getting personal. My gpf is an intensely private matter between me, my God and my parish priest. The city has no business sticking its nose into my toilet.

“How do you water your yard: 1. Timer-based irrigation controller; 2. Manual sprinkler system; 3. Overhead sprinklers; 4. Hand-held hose; 5. Weather-based irrigation controller; 6. Drip irrigation; 7. Underground irrigation.”

Actually, I do all my outdoor watering with my neighbor’s garden hose when he’s out of town or on vacation. I find it’s much, much cheaper than using my own hose.

But if I win the $100, I do plan to take him along with me to the Dollar Tree and let him pick out something really nice for his family.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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