Received an insane water bill from the city, recourse?

Messages
1,642
Location
MN
I've live in this house for over 5 years, and my water usage has ALWAYS been between 2 CCF (living alone) and 10 CCF per month (3 room mates, 4 people total). My billing cycle is from the 4th to the 4th of every month. I just received my March statement, which would have run from Feb. 4th to Mar. 4th, and much to my surprise it was over $800!

Immediately thinking I screwed up a payment or something, I logged in to my online account only to find the issue: the claim my Jan. 4th to Feb. 4th water usage was 73 CCF!! That's over 55 THOUSAND gallons of water! This is an "actual" reading. The guy drives around pinging the meter and it just compares the previous reading to the current reading and bills accordingly. Thing is, my usage the previous period looked normal, 11 CCF, and my current usage from Feb. 4th to Mar. 4th was 7 CCF.

I called, and talked to 3 different people who said "must have left something on" and that the reading is the reading. I know for a fact that nothing was leaking or left on. The outside water is off, the downstairs toilet that's never used is off, and I have people in the house almost 24/7 to alert me to an issue. I know my home, unless there's a new swimming pool somewhere that I don't know about, this is insanity.

The only thing they said they could do is remove the meter, at MY expense, test it with their "calibration equipment" to verify it's readings, and install a new meter. Again, at MY expense. This is the craziest thing I've ever heard.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there's no way out of this, you know what they say: you can't fight city hall. I'm just wondering if anyone else has been through this, and what the outcome was.

To be clear, this is what the usage shows:

12/4 - Actual reading 806
1/4 - 817
2/4 - 890
3/4 - 897

I'm so glad I'm dumping this place, home ownership is a pain in the rear. Not that this couldn't happen anywhere, but still. It's starting to nickel and dime me and I'm sitting on 100k in equity in 6 short years. I'm out.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
Can you ask them to read the meter again?
I probably could, but I just checked and it's reading 899, and the reading as of 3/4 was 897. Seems the meter is working right, 2 CCF in 7 days works out to 8 CCF in 28 days. Perfectly average for us.
This just happened to my sister. She went out to her meter and found that it was counting, while no water was running in the house.. Her main line ruptured underground.
That wouldn't explain the 1-month discrepancy. Water mains don't fix themselves. It went from 11, to 73, to 7.
 
Messages
8,004
Location
The Midwest
Do you have a water powered backup sump pump? I've heard of people having those and getting an insane water bill when the primary sump pump fails and they didn't realize the water powered backup sump pump took over.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
Do you have a water powered backup sump pump? I've heard of people having those and getting an insane water bill when the primary sump pump fails and they didn't realize the water powered backup sump pump took over.
No sump pump. I'm in the city proper, well above street level. No issues with flooding here!
 
Messages
938
Location
MO
All your previous readings were actual, not estimates? Ours used to be estimated then they’d read it every so often and catch you up. That changed after they put new meters in but just something to think of.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
you should check to see if your main line might have a leak. turn off all the water in the house and watch the meter
As I said, that would be impossible. A water main doesn't fix itself, I have usage readings pre and post "incident" and they're totally normal.

However, just to quell any doubts, I just went downstairs and checked. There's nothing running, and the meter is at a dead standstill.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
All your previous readings were actual, not estimates? Ours used to be estimated then they’d read it every so often and catch you up. That changed after they put new meters in but just something to think of.
All readings since I moved in have been actual. I've never received an estimated bill.
 
Messages
938
Location
MO
Were you out of town and your roommates left the sink on for a week? I use about 5,000 gallons a month in the winter, family of 5 so I’d say your average usage is right on. I can check my last 24 hours and last 30 days usage online. Not sure if your meter/service has that capability but if it does that’s where I’d start.
 
Messages
226
Location
USA
My new digital meter has been changed 3 times at the City's request. The meter is wireless and they just drive past the meter. I would send an e-mail to every City Councilor, Mayor, et al. concerning this issue. I'm sure you're not the only one. You have a right to speak "zoom" at the next City Council meeting. I would give the elected officials an opportunity to correct the oversight. Lastly, you can do a letter to the editor in local newspaper or even take out an ad or use Facebook. Best of luck to you sir. Sorry to hear of your troubles.
 

JTK

Messages
13,436
Location
Buffalo, NY
If over 1800 gal/day was actually passing through your meter, I would think you'd see or hear it.

Won't the next month's meter read correct the problem? I've had what you describe happen with my natural gas meter and got credited the next billing statement because the meter reader read or recorded the numbers wrong.
 
Messages
226
Location
USA
Also, the City can do a comparative analysis of other homes in your area, including your history. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
Were you out of town and your roommates left the sink on for a week? I use about 5,000 gallons a month in the winter, family of 5 so I’d say your average usage is right on. I can check my last 24 hours and last 30 days usage online. Not sure if your meter/service has that capability but if it does that’s where I’d start.
I haven't been away for more than a 3 day weekend since last November. Never away from home for more than 72 hours. Unfortunately, I have an "old" water meter than only takes a reading once a month. I actually spoke with one of the techs at public works and they're slowly replacing meters with the new ones that track hourly usage for this EXACT reason, to detect leaks and inform the customer BEFORE their bill goes insane.

The highest resolution I have access to is a month to month basis. I have records going back to 2014. Usage has been 2-10 CCF per month, with the occasional 11 thrown in on a greedy month.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
If over 1800 gal/day was actually passing through your meter, I would think you'd see or hear it.

Won't the next month's meter read correct the problem? I've had what you describe happen with my natural gas meter and got credited the next billing statement because the meter reader read or recorded the numbers wrong.
That's my thinking, exactly. There's no way I wouldn't have heard something, it's a 2500 sq. ft. house.

I doubt the bill will be corrected, I already have the next statement. I thought I paid February but I got my dates wrong (oops), so the 1/4-2/4 bill was something like $720 plus my 2/4-3/4 bill (due 4/1) which was an additional $130ish. Combined, over $800.
 
Messages
74
Location
Southwest
Sounds like some sort of input error on the part of the person reading the meter. I'm sure a usage analysis and next month's reading should resolve this.
 
Messages
10,741
Location
MA
Are you sure you didn't have a running toilet at one point? I've gotten them in the past and the bill can easily be over $500-$1000. That's why I change them out when they start to get oil. Much cheaper to replace a toilet than to pay a sky high water bill.

And if it's an input error on the meter, have you read the numbers on the meter to see if it matched up with your bill?
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
Are you sure you didn't have a running toilet at one point? I've gotten them in the past and the bill can easily be over $500-$1000. That's why I change them out when they start to get oil. Much cheaper to replace a toilet than to pay a sky high water bill.

And if it's an input error on the meter, have you read the numbers on the meter to see if it matched up with your bill?
Not that I know of, the one in the basement is off and none of the others have had any issues that I know of. I don't really have a way of verifying the meter, all I know is that as of tonight it's reading 899 and as of 3/4 when it was last read it was reading 897, which seems about right.

I know it's possible I missed something like a toilet, but I haven't fixed anything and never heard anything running. To use that much water, the thing would have had to have the flapper wide open for days on end. Weeks on end.
 
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