‘DRAINED’: $15K water bill removed from single mom after KPRC 2 investigation

HOUSTON – A single mom in Fifth Ward is relieved this morning. Three months after a KPRC 2 investigation, she no longer has a $15,000 Houston water bill hanging over her head. We first told you Harclerode’s story on March 1st, but she had been trying to get help from the city on her own since 2019. She was so stressed out about the situation, she thought she might lose her home.

“I’m like, ‘I’m going to have to sell my house just to pay my water bill, you know,’” Harclerode said.

What you need to know about water meters and your water bill. The KPRC 2 'DRAINED' Investigation looks into viewer questions and concerns related to Houston water bills. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The Water Department’s Resolution

Harclerode told KPRC 2 Investigates the city finally wiped the huge remaining amount from her account and then sent her a $1300 refund check to reimburse her for bills she had overpaid.

“This is a big weight lifted off my shoulders. So thank you, guys, for coming and helping because honestly, I don’t think they would have done anything if we all never kind of called them out in a way,” Harclerode told investigative reporter Amy Davis.

“You think you’d still be waiting?” Davis asked.

“Oh, yeah,” she answered. “I probably would have paid it. They would have been like, ‘Oh, well, pay $400 a week or something until it’s paid off.’”

The back story

Harclerode emailed and called the Houston water department repeatedly after realizing they had been charging her for someone else’s water since she moved into her Fifth Ward home in 2019. The water meter the city attached to her account that is in her driveway never provided water to her home. Her meter was buried under her the cement on the other side of her drive by the previous owners.

Even after city crews finally dug it out in 2023, the city was still billing her for a huge leak causing the other meter’s dial to spin non-stop. No one knew where that water was going.

By the end of April, Harclerode said the city finally gave her some answers.

“They confirmed that that was not my meter. They were reading it wrong for this entire time,” Harclerode said.

KPRC 2 'DRAINED' Investigation looks into water bill issues around the Houston area. A woman in Houston's 5th ward has been trying to get help for a missing water meter for years. When the city finally found the meter, they sent her a bill for nearly $16,000. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Unsolved mystery of the spinning meter

There’s still a mystery costing someone, possibly taxpayers- a lot of money. The meter that the city admits is not Harclerode’s is still spinning, still providing water to someone.

“Who is using that water?” Davis asked Harclerode.

“I’m 99% sure it’s the red house behind me,” she answered.

No one answered the door at that home when we stopped by; and no one from the city answered when we asked them if they figured out which home the meter provides water to.

You can see more of our ‘DRAINED’ investigations into Houston water billing issues here.

About the Author:

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