Some Fort Worth water customers say their bills have skyrocketed after the city installed new wireless meters.
A water department spokeswoman said the new meters are more accurate, which could cause some bills to go up, but adds the meters are often not to blame.
Adrian Murray, a resident of the White Lake Hills neighborhood, couldn’t believe his latest water bill was $336 – way more than he’s ever paid before. His previous month’s bill was $65.
"There's no way we use that much more water without changing anything,” Murray said. "Your immediate thought is, 'Do I have a leak?' And so that was the first thing we checked. No leak.”
He said he called the water department.
“And they said, ‘No it's a legitimate bill. We put in new meters and it's just more accurate than your old meter,’" he said.
Fort Worth is in the process of installing new wireless water meters that transmit hour-by-hour usage to the city. The devices eliminate the need for a meter reader to go house-to-house.
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Water department spokeswoman Mary Gugliuzza said her office hears a lot of complaints about high bills -- every summer.
"Every year, at some point, whether it's May, June, July or August, at some point we start getting high water bill complaints,” she said. "A lot of it, we find, has nothing to do with the meter."
As for the meters, Gugliuzza said the new ones are more accurate and admits they could cause some customers' bills to go up.
"The thing to remember is, as a meter fails, it fails in the customer's favor by under-registering water use, and that happens with age,” she said. “So the new meters are more accurate because they're newer."
Murray said he doesn’t buy that explanation.
"It didn't sound quite right to me,” he said. “I mean how inaccurate was the old meter to go from $60 to $335 overnight?"
On a neighborhood website, many of Murray's neighbors also reported their bills suddenly shot way up too after getting the new meters.
The city has about 260,000 water accounts and so far has installed new meters for about 28% of them.
Gugliuzza said anyone questioning their water bill should call customer support and can learn exactly when their usage spiked if they have a new meter.
In the coming months, customers will be able to access their own hour-by-hour usage online but that feature is not yet available, she said.
Murray said he's waiting for his next bill to see if this month was a fluke -- or the new reality.