The summer-long project of gently remodeling (and saving) the pool at our new house is finally almost over. My husband and I were in Italy in July, when we received a call from our contractor telling us that we had a 1-in-20 chance that the pool that has been there since 1963 might collapse when the old water and surrounding cement are taken out.

“One in 20 – that sounds horrible,” I moan to my husband.

It’s 3 a.m. on the little island of Panerea, off the coast of Sicily where we are holidaying and now I’m wide awake.

“Sounds like a 95 percent chance of success to me,” my husband replies and rolls over in the bed.

So we take the chance. Worst-case scenario: we build a new pool. “Either way,” my husband says, “you’re remodeling.”

They call back every few hours during the course of the next 24 hours. “Water’s a third of the way and the pool is still there,” the contractor tells us. “No movement in the pool – yet.”

I lie on the deck of the boat that we have rented for the day, contemplating disaster: flooded neighbor’s homes, a gigantic sucking noise that can be heard for miles as the pool collapses taking the hillside with it, the KTLA news van interviewing outraged residents in the Hollywood Hills, details at 11.

Good karma prevails and we return to Los Angeles to find a big empty hole, no water and no cracked cement. We are incredibly relieved by our good luck.

But now is the big moment. After what seems like endless days of watching an empty pool, today the plaster goes on and the water goes in. Can we even figure out how long it will take? The contractor tells me it will take until at least tomorrow morning.

So I call the Department of Water and Power to see what all of this good luck is going to cost me – in gallons and dollars.

As it turns out – who can figure this one out –the rate that you are charged for water in the City of Los Angeles is based on the average usage between October and March. So, as I’m told by the DWP representative – fill away. The DWP is only “guess-timating” my average usage for the time that I’m here during the summer. The winter months will set the rate for next summer. Even better, if it turns out that my usage is less during the winter and they’ve charged me too much for this summer, I can call the Department of Sewers and they will do a one-time rollback.

I’m on a roll. I place the call into the Sewer folks to get my form so that I won’t forget to file for this potential windfall. But not so fast. The Sewer guys start asking a lot of questions and BINGO, the next thing I know, I’m hit for a surcharge for the extra trash can that was left here by the previous owner: $11 per month per can. Ouch! No wonder the seller had a mini-dumpster in the driveway when we took over the property in June.

We’ll set the alarm clock a few times tonight just to make sure we’re not starting a flood out there. At 10.5 feet at its deepest, it’s going to be a long night. The contractor tells me that where he lives water is so cheap that people just let their pools run over during the night and turn the hose off when they wake up.

That’s hard for me to imagine though. I’m still looking for my rebate this fall.

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. After she spent 15 years in the title insurance industry, the Internet “spoke” to her and she has never looked back. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at


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