At a meeting Monday in the La Jolla Public Library, 27 residents met to voice their frustration over, what they called “unexplainable” water usage spikes they say they are being forced to pay for.
“I’m not watering the backyard, that along with being gone for half the month and my bill went up twice and a bit more, how can you explain that?” Joyce Abrams, a La Jolla resident and meeting organizer said.
This meeting was the second time residents gathered together to vent their frustration over their recent bills and the response they received from the city’s Public Utilities Department.
“It rained and I collect rainwater,” one woman said, “I have 400 gallons of rainwater which I use for my garden and my bill is still one and a half times higher than normal.”
NBC 7 Responds has heard the same complaint from homeowners across the city of San Diego, all saying they are confused and upset over recent water use spikes.
A majority of the residential cases NBC 7 Responds has looked into involved a water use spike that returns to normal the following billing period.
“It was only one month that the bill shot up but it was like three-times what it was supposed to be,” another homeowner said at Monday’s meeting, “And nothing was the matter, there were no leaks.”
In some cases, homeowners say they were told they must pay their bill to avoid having their water turned off. They also could challenge their water meter accuracy. These tests, called “controversy tests” are performed by the Public Utilities Department and homeowners have to pay for the test if the city doesn’t find there was a problem with the meter.
Abrams told NBC 7 Responds the Mayor’s office, City Councilmember Barbara Bry’s office and representatives from the Public Utilities Department were invited to Monday’s meeting but no one from these offices attended.
UPDATE: Hillary Nemchik, Communications Director for Councilmember Bry's office told NBC 7 Responds a team member had attended the La Jolla residents' first meeting three weeks prior and said, "Due to scheduling conflicts, a representative from our team was not able to attend today’s meeting. Councilmember Bry understands how frustrating this is for the residents of District 1, and she has assigned a staff member to assist individuals in working with the Public Utilities to resolve their cases. The Councilmember has been meeting with the Public Utilities Department on the issue, and our office is seeking an opinion from an independent expert to analyze the sharp increase in rates."
In an email to NBC 7 Responds, Jerry McCormick, a spokesperson for the city’s Communications Department said, “Customer confidence in the accuracy of our meters and billing is extremely important to us. We are investigating all cases where customers have expressed these concerns. Unfortunately, City staff were not available to attend today's meeting and we apologize for not advising the group of that fact. We are reaching out to this group to obtain a listing of the specific locations and billing concerns for each resident so that we can meet with and investigate the concerns of each resident and or schedule our attendance at a future meeting.”
Has your water meter been repaired or replaced recently? NBC 7 Responds has developed a tool for water customers in the city of San Diego to figure out if their water meter has been repaired or replaced in the last five years.
To try out the tool, click here.