News Feature | August 29, 2017

San Diego Fights Water Bill Shock With Investigative Team

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

San Diego has implemented a program to address water bill shock, a problem for many utilities that occurs when the unexpected size of a water bill surprises a customer.

The city now offers to send inspectors to the home to figure out what may be causing the high bill, according to KGTV.

Ann Ward Weiner used the program when her bill doubled to over $800.

"I was very concerned there was some leak, or there was something going on," she said, per the report.

After she called the city, inspector Rigo Cosio showed up to investigate. He examines about four homes per day, including irrigation systems, toilets, taps, and appliances, the report said.

"You just put in the work, you find one thing, another thing, another thing, and another thing," Cosio said, per the report.

The usual culprit is outdoor watering systems, he said. That was the case for Weiner’s home.

“After the inside of the house checked out, he found that the outdoor water pressure was way too high at 120 PSI, and that a hose bib was leaking in the side yard,” the report said.

“But he also found that Ward Weiner's irrigation system was set to duplicate watering the same areas multiple times a day — likely responsible for the large bill,” the report said.

There are a “handful” of inspectors, and depending on call volume, they make it to homes between a day and a week after the call, the report said.

The city offers a free residential survey program to any customer who wants to save water. A water conservation representative tours the home and identifies leaks and water-saving opportunities. The program emphasizes customer education.

Sometimes bill shock is a result of a leak. Other times, a billing glitch occurs. That was the case for one man in Orange County, CA.

“The bill itself was $189.92, but an additional service fee of $99,999,999 was added to his bill, bringing his total to more than $100 million according to a reminder message for his online bill payments,” The News & Observer reported.

To read more about the ways that water utilities communicate with customers visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.