THE insane water bills at La Viñuela seems like another fiasco that could have easily been avoided.
New water rates designed to punish irresponsible users cannot be considered acceptable if they produce unpayable and, potentially, life-destroying bills.
With the nearby reservoir at terrifyingly low levels, it might have seemed a good idea to introduce rates that rise exponentially with use. And it still might be.
But clearly, five-figure water bills is an absurd outcome, especially when the quantities of water allegedly used are physically impossible.
Furthermore, telling residents they have used ‘millions’ of litres of water is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof.
Simply delivering unfathomable bills and telling residents to pay up regardless is not a workable solution.
If the water escaped in a leak, or it was stolen by mango or avocado farmers, it needs to be proven.
Staff at the town hall must work with the residents – who are their neighbours, let’s not forget – to get to the bottom of the problem.
A prickly, uncommunicative demeanour coupled with an appetite for punishment will only tear the community apart.
The town hall should have engaged with its residents from the start and offered reassurances that the situation would be investigated thoroughly and fairly.
It is, after all, obvious that the expat victims on our front page were not filling Olympic-size swimming pools or raising cash crops.
It may be that residents who have found themselves with demands in the hundreds – still a painful pill to swallow – have been billed fairly.
If there are residents who have not been taking care with their water consumption, then a €500 bill may serve a useful purpose – lesson learnt.
However, the town hall needs to acknowledge that something has gone wrong for a number of residents, if perhaps not for all of the complainants.
Good tax-paying home owners should not be put through this torture.
Let’s hope sanity can still prevail.