Austinites asked for feedback on future of water rates

Sprinklers soak the grass at Vic Mathias Shores on Monday, Aug 8, 2016 around 1 p.m. (KXAN Photo/ Tom Rapp)
Sprinklers soak the grass at Vic Mathias Shores on Monday, Aug 8, 2016 around 1 p.m. (KXAN Photo/ Tom Rapp)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After numerous complaints about abnormally high water bills over the past two years, the city of Austin is asking for the community’s thoughts about the future water and wastewater rates.

The City of Austin’s Utility Customer Contact Center reported 23,944 customers reached out with complaints related to high water bills between Aug. 23, 2015 and Jan. 1, 2016.  Some homeowners said they received bills that were more than three times their average use.

Utility officials said they believed the increase in water usage was due to a long stretch of dry weather following all of the rain received in May and June and they didn’t believe there was a systemic error. Although some issues were addressed through leak identification or determined to be actual usage, many customers never were given a reason for their high bills.

In January 2016, an independent audit of Austin Water found water meter readings to be 98.85 percent accurate. Approximately 3.4 percent of the meter reads in the audit could not be read, had a blurred photo, or showed a discrepant reading.

The last proposal by the city utilized a water bill adjustment program for eligible customers who had three times the expected volume of water. However, through a public records request, KXAN learned of the 48 people who applied for a high water bill adjustment in June, only 11 of those customers were deemed eligible.

Austinites can be part of the decision process. There is a meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Waller Creek Center on East 10th Street starting at 4 p.m. Your suggestions will be part of Austin Water’s pitch to City Council later this year.

For information on what to do if you get a high water bill or to see if your’e eligible for an adjustment, visit the Austin Water website. 

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