News Feature | February 1, 2018

Metering Error In San Diego Had Neighbors' Bills Swapped For Over 20 Years

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

san diego.reg

The main point of contact for most consumers and their drinking water utilities comes when it’s time for the former to pay their bills. That is probably why mistakes in this area are such points of prevailing consternation.

A bizarre billing mix-up in San Diego demonstrates just how befuddling these errors can be.

“It’s hard enough for some people to keep up with their water bills but imaging paying someone else’s bill who uses more water,” NBC 7 reported. “That’s what happened when two men from Normal Heights discovered their bills had been swapped for years. The homeowners called NBC 7 Responds when they felt the city wasn’t doing enough to make things right.”

One of the neighbors, Tim McMillan, had purchased his property in 2002 and always felt the water bills were surprisingly high.

“Tim told NBC 7 Responds he had been paying more than $300 for water every two months and always felt it was high, living in a two-bedroom home with his two children,” per NBC 7. “Over the years, Tim said he had called the city of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department over a dozen times questioning the bill.”

After continued assurances from water officials that his bill was accurate, McMillan checked his property for potential leaks and replaced his pipes, but found water bills were still high. After sending him a $600 bill, the utility agreed to send an inspector to look at his meter.

“When inspectors came out to Tim’s property, Tim says they discovered the problem,” according to NBC 7. “The city’s billing system had switched which meter was connected to which house, meaning Tim was paying for his neighbor’s water usage.”

McMillan had been paying the bills of his neighbor, Joe Zumbo, whose water bill includes his own house as well as three one-bedroom apartments. Getting to the heart of the issue was apparently just a matter of reviewing the utility’s electronic records, which indicated that the meters had been swapped in the city’s billing system since at least 1994.

San Diego offered McMillan a credit for his overpayments at a total of $2,673. But he estimates he has overpaid by at least $9,000 more than that.

To read more about utility billing issues visit Water Online’s AMR, AMI And Metering Solutions Center.

Image credit: "San Diego," Raymond Cunningham, 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/