San Diego family receives $1,000 water bill

Posted at 8:19 PM, Oct 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-26 23:21:03-04

A San Diego family says they received a water bill for more than $1,000. They say there’s no way they used that much water, and the utility provider has it wrong.

"Out of nowhere for the August bill it just more than quadrupled,” said Allied Gardens resident Tim Fennell.

Fennell says he uses the water for household chores and topping off their pool, but that’s it.

"We use a five-gallon jug or bottled water for drinking,” he said.

So when this Navy man got his water bill, he was shocked.

"You have to laugh at it you know,” he said. “There’s no way my family's using that much.”

The total due was more than $1,000.

"Of course it’s possible, but I'm not watering Qualcomm stadium,” he said.

Fennell says they've lived in the Allied Gardens house for a little more than a year. He says his normal bill ranges from $80 to $250 every two months. Fennell says when he tried to protest the bill with the city, they didn’t budge

"Sir, I understand it's a large jump,  but it's been verified and you need to pay it or your water's going to get shut off,” Fennell said a customer service representative told him.

Team 10 took his billing concerns to the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department asking if the bill is correct.

“We’re saying the read is correct, which means our agents read the meter correctly,” said external affairs deputy director Brent Eidson.

Eidson says it’s not normal to have spikes and that’s concerning, but in this case they sent staff to check the meter and the read was accurate.

"We have to bill based on that meter read,” Eidson said.

Eidson says there are more steps Fennell can take including requesting a meter controversy test. Crews would test the meter to see if it’s functioning correctly. The test costs $66 but if it’s determined the meter is malfunctioning the city will refund the cost.

Team 10 discovered Fennell isn't the only one dealing with a high water bill. On the social media site NextDoor, some people in Allied Gardens, Del Cerro and San Carlos also claim their bills are up hundred of dollars or their meter had been misread.

Edidson says he's not aware of an issue in that area, but has seen the posts.

"I alerted our team there was some activity going on so I know that we're looking at that now,” Eidson said.
Fennell says his fight isn't over.

"Expecting someone to pay that much for water is just unreal,” he said.

San Diego City Council member Scott Sherman has staff looking into Fennell’s water charges. They are asking people in the Allied Gardens area who are concerned about their bill to send an email to ScottSherman@SanDiego.Gov

According to its website the public utilities department has a meter reading accuracy rate of more than 99.5% but errors do occur. It says if you don’t have a leak and you haven’t used more water lately, it could be your most recent meter read was incorrect.

If you have questions about your water bill, you can visit the public utilities department website.

They have online resources for help with the following: 

  • How to Read Your Water Meter
  • Checking for Water Leaks
  • Request a field investigation to re-read the meter, (619) 515-3500
  • Request a water survey from Residential Water Survey Program
  • If all preceding items come back OK, the customer can request a meter controversy test.
  • The customer can request an exceptional high consumption adjustment.