Water is very important in day today lives for both household and industrial uses. There are many various water sources available to extract water for both domestic and industrial uses. Water sources can be either private or public sources. Private water sources belong to individuals and they have the rights and privileges to the water sources. Public water sources are governed by municipal authorities who at a given period they bill the consumers for the water consumed. The consumers both domestic and industrial are obliged to pay for the water services within stipulated timelines to avoid their water supply being turned off. Water supply can be turned off for various reasons and many procedures have been put into place to manage water shut off under different conditions. It is important to understand these conditions so that one may be able to answer whether it is legal or illegal to shut of water supply. Sections below seeks to highlight some of the considerations and conditions that makes it illegal to turn off water supply.
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Private Water Sources
Private water sources are privately owned and mostly used for personal household or industrial uses. The owners have the rights to do what they want with their sources either to turn them for one reason or another. These water supply include boreholes and wells. The owner of such property can turn off the supply and it is not illegal to do so. The owner may turn the water supply off for repairs of either burst piping or any other plumbing requirements which may interfere with water reticulation system within the owner’s property. The owner does not need any permission from municipal authorities to do so but however the owner may need abstraction license for that. There are laws which regulates the drilling of boreholes and wells depending on the volume of extraction and other requirements. These have to be met before one can drill the borehole but to turn off the water supply is not illegal once licensed to have the water supply.
Public or Municipal Owned Water Supply
This is the other alternative water source for both household and industrial uses available. There are regulations which govern the turning off of water supply legally to users. Water supply can be cut off for either repairs on the reticulation system or non-payment of water bills by the user. In case of repairs, the authorities may legally turn off water supply without any prior notice. There may be emergency water repairs required which if not done urgently may result in serious social and health problems. Authorities may on this occasion turn off the water supply legally to your point of use. In case of non-payment of the water bill, the story is a bit different. Every user of municipal water is obliged to pay for the service with non-payment resulting in legal turning off of water supply.
However, to legalize the turning off of the water supply various procedures and conditions have to be met. District bills each account every month and every balance brought forward are supposed to be settled before the fifteenth day of the month the bill was received. If not, the account holder is served with a notice of intention of discontinuation or turning off of water supply. Beginning of next month the authorities are legally allowed to turn off water supply to the account holder if payment is not made. This is the official procedure to be followed otherwise the turning off of water supply would be illegal. The district authorities are legally directed to post a first lock-off notice at least 48 hours prior to the turning off of water supply. The notice should state the amount owed and reconnection fee once the bill is settled.
There are provisions also for users who cannot settle their payments to agree to a payment plan which they should honor and failure to do so may also result in legal turning off of water supply.
There are however some conditions that make it illegal for water authorities to turn off water supply. The regulations put restrictions on water supply being turned off where small children can be affected. The regulations also applies to cases where elderly and other vulnerable people may be affected by turning off of the water supply. Connecticut law stipulates that families with seriously ill person cannot have their water turned off during the winter months while those that have someone with a life-threatening condition or illness are protected from having their water supply turned off year-round. Having your water supply turned off under those conditions makes the turning off illegal.
The regulations in Virginia allows public utilities providing water service to allow residential users with serious medical conditions to have their water supply service termination delayed for a minimum of 30 days twice within a period of one year. There are however exceptions where it is legally for water authorities to turn off water supply. If the user either steals water service or get water service through fraud and tempers with water meter the authorities may legally turn off water supply without any notice.
Additionally public water supply can be turned off legally by user to carry some maintenance work that may interfere with water system provided it does not affect other users. Turning off water supply that affects other community members is not allowed and is deemed illegal. Permission has to be granted to do that. In some cases if the customer fails to pay water bill, the authorities will seek priority lien against the property.
From this discussion it can be seen that it is incorrect to say it is illegal or legal to turn off water supply. It all depends on the conditions available and applicable laws that govern those conditions. The legality of turning off water supply also differs from state to state. It is therefore important that one clarifies the conditions under which cases belong and from the discussion a conclusion can be drawn to match the conditions.