KINGWOOD, Texas – Most of us know approximately how much our water bills are each month and we can budget for that. But dozens of homeowners in Kingwood are struggling to understand and pay sky-high water bills from the city of Houston. Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is looking into the bills, some up to $1,400 for just one month!
Kingwood mom budgets for bills, surprised by $500+ water bill
As a single mom to an 18-month-old, Morgan Miranda likes to stay organized and prepared. A post-it note on her fridge reminds her which monthly bills are coming up.
“So I know what comes out of my bank account every month,” she explained.
But none of it could have prepared her for her last water bill. The total: $520.12.
“That was not in the budget,” said Miranda.
According to her past usage shown on her water bill, Miranda typically uses about 4,000 gallons of water a month. Her bills are usually about $50. But in the month of June, her meter readings show she used 23,000 gallons of water.
“Not sure how I could have used that much with just my daughter and me in the house,” said Miranda.
Dozens of people post on social media about high bills
Many of her neighbors have the same questions. One message thread on the Nextdoor app about the last two months’ bills has 270 comments. Water customers sent us their outrageous bills, looking for help. Of the bills we got, one was more than $1,400. Another one, more than $900, and several others in the $500 range.
“I’ve gotten 19,000 gallons for the month of June and I was gone for a week,” said Alex Vinot.
“I checked all the toilets putting dye in the back of the tank and you leave it sitting overnight,” said Garth Faries.
Homeowners say they’ve found no leaks; and even though they sent messages to the water department through the website, they’ve received no response.
“Nobody likes high water bills. I don’t like them,” said Dave Martin, city of Houston Mayor Pro Tem and councilman for District E.
When we reached out to Martin, who represents the citizens of Kingwood, he said his office will make sure each complaint and meter is checked out. He mentioned that while many people are posting complaints on social media, his office has not received a lot of complaints.
How to report unusually high water bills in Houston
If you have an unusually high bill, Martin says you should file a complaint with 3-1-1 and get a tracking number. Then call your council member’s office and report the problem, giving them the tracking number.
“We will open up a case, track the case from beginning to end and we will find a resolution,” said Martin.
You can also call Houston Public Works to tell them there is a problem with your bill. (832) 394-BILL (2455) Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. You can email them at Customer.Service@houstontx.gov or have a live chat with a city representative: https://www.houstonwaterbills.houstontx.gov/ProdDP/Default/Default
Useful links about water bills and getting help
The City of Houston did just increase water rates on April 1,2022; but the average homeowner should only be paying about $6 more if they used the same amount of water as last year. Learn more about the City of Houston water rate increase.
Read more about unusually high water bills in the Houston area here.
How to file a complaint with 3-1-1 about high water bills.
Other steps you can take to fight big water bills.
Full statement from Dave Martin’s office
Mayor Pro Tem Martin would like District E residents to be aware of the possibility for increasing water bills as Houston is facing record heat and worsening drought conditions the cost to keep lawns green and water running is also on the rise. Currently, in the City of Houston, two of the top ten Houston 3-1-1 service requests are reports of water leaks and water service issues. It is important for all residents to understand that all water bill issues are handled on a case-by-case basis as no two addresses are the same and water usage changes month to month, which is why it is crucial to report these issues to Houston 3-1-1 by calling (713) 837-0311.
The City of Houston has established a “Consumption Awareness Program” for residents to use which alerts homeowners as soon as usage at your address increases. To register for that program sign up here. You can also estimate your upcoming bills by using this calculator.
If you believe your water bill is incorrect it is important to contact Houston 3-1-1 (713-837-0311) first. After residents have called Houston 3-1-1 a unique service request number is generated, which triggers an investigation. Once you receive your service request number after calling Houston 3-1-1, please send your service request number along with your most recent water bill to our office at email@example.com for the District E office to monitor. Please keep in mind a Houston 3-1-1 report needs to be submitted each time an issue occurs.
Right now wait times for investigation to occur are between seven to fourteen business days, but it varies depending on the situation. Each water bill issue is assigned a case manager within the Customer Account Services (CAS) Division of the Water Department and members of the District E team work directly with those CAS employees to get information back to residents in a timely manner.
It is important for residents to use Houston 3-1-1, as this is the only way for the City of Houston to know a problem exists. Additionally, the District E office compiles that information and can identify a trend, should one exist. Based on historical information most cases investigated show increased usage by customers.
In a minority of cases, leaks have been identified and when the leak has been found on the City side/Public side of the meter, repairs to the meter are made and adjustments are applied to those bills. When leaks are investigated and discovered to be on the private side of the meter a one-time leak adjustment can be submitted. If you do find a leak and would like to submit a one-time leak adjustment you may use this form (once a year). Please continue to pay your bill until your form is approved/denied.
If you do experience unexplained usage over 200% of the average usage you may submit an “unusually large bill application” (once a year). It is important in this instance as well, to continue to pay your bill until your form is approved/denied.
Keep in mind, leaks may not always present as gushing water, sometimes it is an area of your yard that appears greener than the rest, or a running toilet in a part of your home you don’t use often. I encourage you to please visit the City of Houston Water website for tips on how to find a leaking toilet, how to test for a leaking toilet, and tips on in-home conservation.
For more information please contact Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s Office by calling (832) 393-3008 or by emailing DistrictE@houstontx.gov.