Austin Water lists factors for bill spike

After our story Tuesday on the abundance of water bill complaints, Austin Water Utility is speaking out. But not everyone is satisfied with their answers.

Hundreds of people have seen their bills go up two, three, even four times as much. One factor is that Austin Water pumpage this August is 62 percent higher than in May. Where as in other years, it's been half that.

It's a sudden problem being seen across the Central Texas region, a spike in water bills. Even for those who have lived in the same home for 22 years.

"Our water usage fluctuates so little throughout the year because we don't have a sprinkler system, we don't have a pool, we don't water our grass in the Summer. We let it go dormant because we know it will grow back," says Fran Werner, Angel Pass resident.

Austin Water Utility says when it comes to mother nature, it can be hard to navigate. Also affecting Cedar Park and Round Rock.

"A lot of precipitation, no precipitation, an extended drought. These curve balls are going to have to be addressed and we're open and we want to make sure we are working together with our customers," says Jason Hill, Austin Water Utility.

During wet months, water usage is down meaning lower bills. During dry months usage is up meaning higher bills. 

Austin Water Utility says with their investigation so far, a good portion of the complaints have ended with the billing being accurate. It was instead other factors that caused the spike. 

"There's going to be an enormous amount of different possibilities out there. There's going to be folks with lawns that are completely dead, with no irrigation system and their bills may have spiked for a leak in the toilet. Or it may be another situation where they do have a green lawn and it's the irrigation system. Or a pool leak, you never see those leaks because they're absorbed into the ground. Or it could be a misread on the meter," says Hill.
Janelle Moody who lives in Highland Hills doesn't buy it.

"Well it's totally illogical that this many people would have a leak all in the same month. So what they're telling us cannot be logical or correct," says Janelle Moody, Highland Hills resident.

For the past month she has been remodeling her kitchen. She thought she was conserving water since she didn't have any appliances set up. Her bill says otherwise.

"This is the space where the sink will be. So I have not washed dishes, a lot of dishes. Mostly use paper plates," says Moody.

Her bill went from $215 in July to more than $500 in August. She just wants an explanation as to why.

Austin Water says another big factor is increased rates not felt fully until the increase water use of August. River Place and Lost Creek would really feel a difference in rates this Summer since both areas are now being charged under the tiered rate structure.

For instance in Tier 1, if you use up to 2,000 gallons of water then you would pay a few dollars per thousand gallons. Where as in Tier 5, if you use more than 20,000 gallons then you would pay more than $13 dollars per thousand gallons.

Austin Water says there are three things that customers can do right now:

-Check home for leaks
-Self audit outdoor irrigation
-Follow conservation tips

If that doesn't explain the spike, you're asked to call Austin Water so they can launch an investigation.
If it's an error on their part, they will make an adjustment.

Austin Water Utility