Water bills skyrocket for many Central Texans

It's not unusual for water and electricity bills to go up in August. But some Central Texans' water bills are so high, they want answers.

Hundreds of residents are voicing their concerns online. This is after receiving their water bill for August and seeing an increase of two, three, even four times what they normally pay.

From one month to the next, Lisa Rose says the numbers just don't add up. She's lives in Allandale and has never seen her water bill this high.

"I was shocked when I opened up my bill. I thought I was going to faint. It had gone from five thousand gallons a month, which for me was a lot and I actually thought that was a lot last month, to twelve-thousand gallons in one month. Nothing had changed," says Lisa Rose, Allandale resident.

She also had a plumbing company come out but they found no large leaks. That's when she posted on Next Door, a neighborhood social network where residents voice their concerns.

"I'm wondering if anyone else noticed a gigantic increase in water consumption on their recent bill," says Rose.

She never expected to receive more than a hundred comments. Like Madelon Highsmith in Northwest Hills who has seen an even larger increase than most. From $400 in July to close to $1,000 in August.

"We put in a swimming pool last Summer and it was half the amount we were billed this month. We were out of town this billing cycle, two weeks of it, and my son was away at camp," says Madelon Highsmith, Northwest Hills resident.

She says instead of waiting for the City of Austin to respond, citizens should take matters into their own hands.

"I think we need to all start monitoring our meters. Taking a picture of them at the beginning of the billing cycle and again at the end and maybe throughout. So we can keep an eye and maybe help them solve the problem," says Highsmith.

We contacted Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool to see if they've had any complaints.

"Council offices have received a number of emails from residents citywide, all expressing shock over their water bills. There's a very specific instance in District 7 where the resident has done a look-back on her water bills to demonstrate a clear uptick in water use that's highly unusual. Both Austin Water Utility and Austin Energy are investigating what might be the cause of the sudden spike in water use in instances like this particular one," says Leslie Pool, Austin City Council, District 7.

It's not just across Austin. Many Cedar Park residents are seeing an increase too. The Ranch at Brushy Creek even took to their Facebook page to try to solve the problem.

"It's been higher during the Summer months of course but nothing that jumps up by a factor of three or four times higher than we usually consume," says Assaad Hamade, Cedar Park resident.

The City of Cedar Park sent us a statement saying:

"We have received inquiries from residents in several neighborhoods about their recent August water bills. We take our customers' concerns seriously and in response to their inquiries we are conducting a thorough examination of our system. This involves examining both the water demand data from our water treatment plant and the meter reading and billing process.

As we have been conducting this examination over the past week, we have not identified any type of meter malfunction or billing errors thus far. However, we are not making any assumptions and are thoroughly looking at every aspect of our processes.

We are focusing on two data points: How much water is being demanded from our water plant and how much we are billing. How these numbers correspond indicate use and whether customers are over- or undercharged. Our initial analysis shows that we have seen a 93 percent increase in the amount of water being treated at our water treatment plant. This percentage increase corresponds with what has been billed, meaning that we have not had a billing error. The increases in water consumption we are seeing are not unusual for this time of year, as August is consistently one of the highest demand months.

The City of Cedar Park is committed to providing courteous, responsive, and professional service. If you would like more information about how your water utility bill is calculated please visit www.cedarparktexas.gov/waterrates. If you have additional questions about your water utility bill, please contact Utility Billing at 512-401-5300. Thank you, in advance, for your patience. We are working diligently to look into this issue."
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