Ask Amy: Will the city of Houston cut off your water if you can’t pay your bill?

‘DRAINED’ Investigation answers your questions about city water bill issues

We’ve heard from hundreds of people who have water bills they don’t think they owe. One of the biggest worries we hear: What if my water is shut off either because they can’t pay the huge bill or because the bill is in the review process?

During our ‘DRAINED’ Investigation many of you have asked if the city will shut off your water. Councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabazz addressed this during a recent council meeting.

KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis takes to council about water customers feeling 'DRAINED.' (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“I think I heard that they’re not going to cut people’s water off. Is that a true statement? Because this is frightening. I mean, something has to happen again, a moratorium, something to work this out. For a person, being able to change tremendously like that is just devastating,” said Evans-Shabazz.

Evans-Shabazz spoke during the council meeting where 27 ‘DRAINED’ customers signed up to share their water bill stories with city leadership. We wanted to check about what Evans-Shabazz asked during that meeting. At the time Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin said water is not being shut off for customers. This is not exactly accurate.

Through public records requests we learned water was disconnected to more than 5,100 customers last year.

We are still waiting to hear this year’s shut-off numbers.

  • City ordinance says your water cannot be shut off if you call to dispute your water bill while it’s being investigated.
  • When you make your dispute, you should call the water department and then follow up with an email to the water department, so you have proof you filed a dispute.

Your online water bill has steps to follow for all of this.

Steps to take when you get a water bill you don’t think you owe

If you get a water bill you want the city to review, first, take the bill off of autopay. Next, contact the water department (as mentioned above) and then check out your bill history.

You’ll want to go outside to your water meter and write down or take a picture of the reading on your meter. The city looks at the first four digits. It should be close to the reading on your most recent bill if only a few days have passed. If the numbers on your bill and the numbers on your meter match or are close, check for leaks. Here is a step-by-step guide for checking for leaks.

Sign up for high-usage alerts

We are answering questions after our latest 'DRAINED' Investigation. The first step to getting help for a large water bill is to make an "Unusually Large Bill" request. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

You can get an immediate heads-up that you are using a lot of water. The Consumption Awareness Program offers alerts and notifications via Text, Email or Phone. Once you have surpassed your set threshold, you will receive an alert via Text, Email, or Phone informing you of the following:

  • Your current gallon consumption
  • Dates when this consumption was used
  • Your current threshold
  • Constant flow detection

Learn more about registering here.

Here’s more on how you can fight your water bill.

We are working on a whole new round of ‘DRAINED’ investigations

When: Thursday, November 16th

What: Catch a full day of ‘DRAINED’ reporting on everything related to water bills in Houston. Here is some of what you will see:

  • Several city leaders said they planned to push for change in how the city deals with water bills. But what do they plan on doing? We are asking city leaders to respond.
  • On your water bill, the city asks for W.A.T.E.R. donations. What is this? Who gets the money?
  • How do you really know you are using the water that the city says you are using? We put a device to the test.
  • We are exposing shady connections and questionable contracts within the water department. There’s big money to be made fixing Houston’s countless water main breaks - if you have a contract.

We will not stop our ‘DRAINED’ Investigation until we get more answers for you about the water bill issues in our city. Email Investigator Amy Davis and Producer Andrea Slaydon if you need help. You can also look through the many ‘DRAINED’ stories we have done to see if you can find the help you need there.

About the Authors:

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

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.