San Diego to expand audit of water billing overcharges

Posted at 10:29 AM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 16:14:19-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego officials plan to expand and speed up an audit of water billing issues, after admitting more than 300 residents were incorrectly overcharged last year.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, joined by City Councilmembers Chris Cate and Lorie Zapf, City Auditor Eduardo Luna, and Public Utilities Department (PUD) Director Vic Bianes, said the audit will help find any possible inaccuracies and suggest any needed changes.

"San Diegans need to be able to trust that their bills are correct, that the new technology we are implementing is working properly, and that every cent they pay goes to making sure we have safe, reliable water," Faulconer said. "I welcome this independent review of operations to determine how we can better serve our customers and reassure them that we are doing everything we can to ensure the accuracy of their bills."

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The PUD has reportedly implemented several safeguards while the audit is underway, including:

  • Requiring PUD supervisors to personally sign off on daily reports from meter readers,
  • Adding security protocols to ensure that only designated staff have ability to input data,
  • Improving automated alerts that flag unusual spikes in water usage,
  • Adding a second spot check review of meter reads to ensure accuracy, and
  • Including an informational insert in water bills on how customers can read their own meters and track their water use.

Officials will also hold a community forum to address concerns Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Mira Mesa Senior Center, located on 8460 Mira Mesa Blvd.

City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry said in a statement she also would like to see a review of the city water department's policies, procedures, and installation of smart meters and software.

"I am glad to see the Mayor taking a serious step toward addressing the citywide issue of unexplained spikes in water bills today by supporting an audit I called for several weeks ago and by seeking to expedite the audit so that ratepayers will get answers faster about the reasons for these dramatic increases."

Last week, officials admitted to overcharging at least 343 people during the November to December billing period. The affected customers lived in Carmel Valley, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Peñasquitos.

The average overcharge for single-family residential customers was $303, though some saw higher or lower bills depending on usage.

Officials said human error in reading the meters was the cause of the incorrect billing.