City of Austin apologizes for water meter reading problems

The City of Austin is apologizing for water meter reading problems it says it discovered after a detailed investigation into questions raised by residential water customers from across the city.

Officials say they found problems in the way some customers were assessed for water in August and September 2017. They say the pattern makes it appear that later-summer water use was abnormally low in August and overly concentrated in September.

Austin Energy manages the metering and billing for all city utilities, including water, and General Manager of Austin Energy Jackie Sargent said in a statement, "We should have found this faster and we should have found it ourselves. We should have had better safeguards against unreasonable water meter reads."

“We apologize to those affected by this anomaly and we hold ourselves accountable for improving our processes so that they do not recur. Customers must have confidence that their utility bills are measured and billed accurately,” Sargent says.

The City of Austin says it will provide bill credits to those affected, believed to be around 7,400 customers. The credits will range from average at around $20 and will not be more than $80 in most instances.

Officials believe the total credit to all customers will be approximately $138,000.

Affected customers will be contacted by mail by February 15. These letters will also notify approximately 700 customers who had significantly higher September use than in previous years and who may qualify for an additional High Bill Administrative Adjustment if their elevated use was unintended or unexplained.

The City encourages customers with the low-August/high-September pattern to wait until Feb. 28 to receive a letter. In the adjustment of customer bills, late fees will be waived, or reversed, if already assessed.

The City anticipates that all eligible customer credits will be applied to bills by March 15.