San Diego

Audit of Water Department Billing Complaints Delayed

The San Diego City Auditor is set to release a highly anticipated audit of high water bills and the Public Utilities Department customer service the past year. The audit will be the first of four reviews currently underway of the department’s practices.

UPDATE - Tuesday, July 24: The release of the San Diego City Auditor's report on water department billing has been delayed. On Tuesday, City Auditor Eduardo Luna told NBC 7 Responds his office was asked by management at the Public Utilities Department for an extra day to respond to the Auditor's findings. Luna said he expects the report to be released Wednesday afternoon.

A highly anticipated City Auditor report examining the city’s response to high water bills is expected to be released on Tuesday. 

While the audit is just one of four investigations into a surge of complaints about fluctuating water bills, it will be the first opportunity for elected officials and the public to learn more about what caused the flood of complaints earlier this year. 

San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate first requested the audit in February. His request was followed by one from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, nearly one month after NBC 7 Responds first reported on homeowners who said they were being charged for unusually high water bills. 

Since that time, nearly eleven-hundred city water customers have complained about similar spikes. 

NBC 7 Responds has repeatedly asked the city and Public Utilities Department for information about the unexpected charges. So far, the Public Utilities Department has blamed the high bills on leaky pipes, an influx of houseguests, overwatering, and lastly, a single meter reader employee. 

“I think there’s an attempt to try and say that this issue is not as big as it is,” Councilmember David Alvarez, chair of the city council’s Environment Committee said. “It’s not an isolated incident, not one-meter reader, not one community, it’s time and time again all of the things that they’ve said has proven to be false.” 

On Monday, City Auditor Eduardo Luna confirmed the report is still expected to be released on Tuesday. The report was originally scheduled to be released in June but was delayed due to more work needing to be performed. 

After analyzing a 14-month period customer billing data, starting in January 2017, NBC 7 Responds and media partner Voice of San Diego found more than 2,600 city water customers saw their bills double or more in a single billing period.

The charts in the map above represent the number of customers who were charged a percent increase from one bill to the next. Analysis includes water billing data from January 2017 through February 2018.
Source: NBC 7 Responds and Voice of San Diego

Meanwhile, San Diego City Councilmembers are reacting to an NBC 7 Responds investigation into a smart water meter "glitch". To see their reaction, look below. 

City Council Reacts To Water Department Investigation

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