NewsTeam 10 Investigates


San Diegans receiving multiple late water bills, sometimes totaling $1,000+

Water meter
Posted at 6:43 PM, Apr 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-12 23:01:29-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Some San Diegans are receiving multiple water bills all at once, and one woman told Team 10 she received 11 bills in the mail with no explanation.

Carol Sveilich said she got the bills in two overstuffed envelopes in early February. “They were filled with bills out of order, all different amounts, but generated on the same day,” Sveilich said. “I was so confused. I thought I owed each amount of each bill.”

She tried to get on the phone with San Diego Public Utilities, but she said she couldn’t get through, would be put on hold, and then get disconnected.

After multiple attempts, she said she reached a representative and found out she owed more than $1,600. Sveilich also found out surprising information about her meter.

“She told us my water meter had malfunctioned a couple times. I didn't really understand what that had to do with getting all the bills with no explanation,” Sveilich said.

She admitted that serious health issues took precedent over the last year and did not realize—until it was too late—timely water bills were not coming to her home. Sveilich reached out to her councilmember and was told the Public Utilities Department would get back to her. That has not happened.

“I can't get a hold of anyone,” she said.

Team 10 contacted the city to find out the information that Sveilich was looking for.

According to Arian Collins, Supervising Public Information Officer for the City of San Diego, currently “more than 90% of more than 90% of Public Utilities customers receive timely bills.”

Collins said Sveilich should have received information prior to receiving the bills. He called it an error and apologized for the impact.

“The regular process is to notify a customer by phone, email or letter before sending those bills out,” Collins said.

He admitted staffing issues are a challenge with both the Water Meter Services and Customer Support Division.

Collins added that those who received multiple bills at once—like Sveilich—“can pay off their accounts over time with no penalty or interest charged.”

He clarified that when a water meter malfunctions, the department estimates usage based on historic usage by the customer at the property until the meter can be replaced.

He encourages customers to reach out if they have not received a bill, even if response is slow.

“Due to staffing challenges, the Public Utilities Department is, unfortunately, unable to investigate each account immediately,” Collins said.

The city is working on hiring and training staff, and working with the City’s Performance and Analytics Department to improve the customer experience and “relieve the strain on the customer support team.”

Sveilich is paying off her bills on time, but the situation is adding unnecessary stress as she continues to deal with lingering health issues.

“It seems like someone's asleep at the wheel and needs to pull this organization together,” she said.