Received an insane water bill from the city, recourse?

Silicon Valley
Water main rupture. What they will do for you depends on your local laws and codes. Some will waive the extra if you prove you fix your problem while others, like in California with laws to mandate charging "cost" to customers only, they cannot do anything for you because then they will charge others instead to compensate, and make them charge more than 'cost'.

First, find the leak. Mine burst for 3 feet and had 270 CCF in that morning gone, end up with a $1200 bill.
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.
Two things come to mind: 1) leak, either under ground or toilet. If you have an outside, frost free spigot, they can leak out the bottom. Put food coloring in the toilet tank then, without flushing, see if it shows up in the toilet bowl.
2) all water meters have a pyramid shaped leak detector somewhere on the dial. If that is moving, when all the faucets
Are off, you have a leak.
New Jersey
Have you had a meter replacement in the last year or so? Water companies are famous for screwing up the billing after that. Happened to me. Said I owed $800. Fought for months to get that straightened out.
Independence Ky
Ok here is my theory after reading the thread. Was this bad bill from the coldest month??? Perhaps it got cold enough that month to somehow cause a leak under ground somewhere but then stopped leaking once the temps rose?? I seriously doubt this big of a leak could fix itself but just a thought. Being that you have had a normal bill after the large bill I’m just trying to think outside the box.
Let's say they test the meter and find it faulty, do you STILL have to pay for it?
Different meter (gas) but at work, we don't use/need natural gas except for the furnace. The local utility charges $120/month "delivery fee" whether you have usage or not so what we and most other tenants do is a seasonal shut-off. We did this last spring and even shut off the valves to the furnaces (tech advised we do this to keep air from building up in the line making it harder to re-light in the fall) but got a gas bill, showing usage, for a couple months. Let it go thinking we turned it off mid-cycle or something... After the next bill, we called, they sent a tech out, and he confirmed the valves were shut off. While he was watching the meter dial, it moved. Not a lot, but that's all it took. He replaced the meter and we're going on 4-5 months with no gas bill. This is Ohio with cold winters and two furnaces running too ! We presume they credited us a substantial amount though the bill says nothing other than "Amount due: $0.00". We're going to call next week at this point.
Scruffy City
Yes, I can. And yes, with all water off in the house the meter is at full stop. No, the meter is from 1993 according to the city.

Does your bill not show previous and present readings to arrive at usage?

What i was getting at is that our meter showed less than what they had said, in looking it was pretty clear that they had been fudging the numbers after the bad one... (because the "previous reading" was more than was presently on the meter.

For a long time i took pictures of it the few days around which they typically read it, i had even been known to make sure meter reader truck guy/gal saw me do it...
Replace the meter. If you look at the numbers it was counting Ones position as Tens position. Scale may have stuck together. My money would be on the meter being bad. If it did it once it will happen again.