Ask Amy: Why water bill readings are often wrong + what is being done to fix the problem

Months of requests by our team for answers to the water bill issues in Houston

(Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

All this week, KPRC 2 Investigates team is highlighting some of the water bill issues you have sent to us and we are working to get you answers. In the process, we got a chance to talk with the top leader for the City of Houston.

Question: How accurate is the meter reading?

(Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Answer: When it comes to meter readings Carol Haddock, Houston’s public works director, says the current infrastructure was installed in the 90s so meter readings are about 60% accurate.

“They used to read it about 90%. Now we’re down closer to 60%, where we actually get those remote reads, and we can’t get parks to replace it. And that’s why we’re replacing it. So it’s not our desire to not have bills generated,” said Haddock. “And in those cases where we don’t have those generated, we need to get into the system and understand why the system didn’t work on our side. And we need to fix it.”

Question: How are meters read?

(Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Answer: “We have not had physical walking meter readers since the 90s. We have been with the remote read. And even if we don’t have the whole network in place, we roll the van. And we can typically read most meters through the near field on the van. And then there’s a few that we actually have to get out and go physically check,” Haddock explained.

Public works crews are in the process of replacing parts in the meters, which will also help monitor what is going on with your bill.

“It also the there’s some additional benefits of having that technology in place. If your meter has a constant flow, Then it can generate an alert and say, hey, there’s something going on. Unless you’re running your sprinkler system or unless you’re doing something, you know your system has been running the constant flow for the last two, two hours,” said Haddock.

But it could be a while before technology is replaced

Haddock told us they are working to hire more customer service reps to help customers deal with issues they are having. But she said because of supply chain issues it is taking much longer than expected to get those transmitters. She said it could be more than a year before they are installed.

Here is information about what you can do if you are having an issue with the meter reading.


Dozens of public information requests, looking for answers

It’s not just you asking us questions, we are asking the City of Houston a lot of questions. We have submitted more than a dozen public information requests. We’ve asked how many customers actually get their water bills adjusted when they request it and we’ve asked where the city has replaced the most meters over the last couple of years.

WATCH: See our entire ‘KPRC 2 Investigates: ‘DRAINED’ series here.

See more on the water bill topics we are tackling on my Ask Amy episode. This week Investigates Producer Andrea Slaydon joins me to discuss what is going into bringing you all of this information.

(Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Send me any questions you have to AskAmy@kprc.com and I’ll work to get an answer.


About the Authors:

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.