San Diego City water audit could be delayed

A highly anticipated audit of the city's water-billing practices could be delayed. 

City Auditor Eduardo Luna made the comments Thursday at the city's first public hearing after hundreds of residents complained about mysteriously high water bills. 

"Some of the key billing data that we're looking for may be delayed, they're looking about providing that to us in about two months, which could potentially have an impact when we complete this audit," Luna said. 

The city's environment committee - which includes four City Council members - held the meeting in order to question public utilities officials over the water bills.

San Diegans have complained for months about spiking bills - some more than $1,000. They said the city water department met their concerns with indifference, ultimately leading some to get shut off notices.

"We sincerely apologize to all customers that have been affected by this situation," said City Public is Utilities Director Vic Bianes. 

Bianes said the department has added staff to work on resident concerns, is waiving fees for meter tests, and is having supervisors sign off on daily work. The department is also promising not to shut off water for anyone disputing a bil. 

"You have my word and that of my team that we're doing everything we can to correct this challenging situation," Bianes said.

Councilmember Chris Cate said he was glad to see the changes being made.

"The initial response to these concerns was lackluster," he said. 

The department says it has refunded 641 bills so far, with the average about $500. 

Councilman Dave Alvarez, who chaired the meeting, said he's still lacking answers about what caused the spikes.

"Good news for the consumer," he said. "Not good news for understanding what's happening here." 

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