FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Sitting empty for more than a year now, the house under renovation on Klamath Mountain Road normally uses no water.
“We need to wash our hands. That’s it,” said homeowner Tim Liang.
In October of last year, though, records show a sudden, dramatic spike.
Liang said he was shocked to see the bill for water alone was $758 bill.
“I thought, ‘okay, there might be a leak somewhere or a broken pipe’, but I came and I didn’t find anything,” said Liang. “We didn’t find a bit of water anywhere.”
Liang says there’s no sprinkler system and the outdoor faucets are all locked.
City records show the jump in usage occurred sometime between the beginning of the billing cycle on September 16 and October 2, when someone installing new Smart Point technology on the meter for the water department, noted the increase.
“It’s so much coincidence,” said Liang, who believes the work done on the meter may have affected the numbers being displayed.
The city said it didn’t change the meter, only added a transmitter to provide the water department with updated readings every four hours.
Regardless, it investigated and tested the meter, but determined 127,000 gallons of water must have flowed through it.
In an email to the Liangs, it wrote, “The meter is correct. There are no malfunctions. We are unable to explain the consumption captured by the meter, and, evidently, neither are you.”
The city noted a leak in a pipe could easily cause such a high volume of usage in a short period of time.
Liang, though, says he never fixed a leak, and yet the meter hasn’t budged since October 2.
The city did offer the Liangs an “undefined high water use” adjustment, cutting their bill in half.
Liang says, that’s still $376 for water his family never saw.
His bill is due Friday.
The city has warned if it’s not paid, the full amount of $949.59 will be due, along with late fees, and that it “will be forced to place a lien against your property for that unpaid balance.”
If customers have concerns about their meter, the city says they should call the water department’s customer service line at 817-392-4477 or e-mail email@example.com
In the last fiscal year, it says it’s completed 13,568 customer investigations.
“Though there are occasional human errors with meter reading, no meters in our system have been found to be ‘over-registering’ consumption…” a water department spokesperson wrote CBS11.
It’s far more likely, the city told the Liangs, a malfunctioning meter will register no water use or less water use than is actually occurring.
Various North Texas cities, including Fort Worth, do offer adjustments, like the one extended to the Liangs, to cover the cost of the unexpected expense caused by water leaks.
Smart meters are also allowing cities to better track water usage in virtually real time, and customers can request to be notified when meters begin to register unusually high consumption.