It was so stunning Louis McBurnett could only stare at her water bill. In one month, the Sachse resident went from paying $117 to more than $500.
"I’ve seen people say it’s doubled [or] it’s tripled, but I have never seen anybody say it went up five times," McBurnett said.
According to her previous month's bill, she used 6,800 gallons of water. Last month, that number skyrocketed to 65,000 gallons. McBurnett said there was no logical explanation for the hike.
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“If you have a 15,000-gallon pool, that’s like three extra pools that I used in one month," she said. "There’s no way. Someone needs to explain how we got here.”
In the past week alone, hundreds of people called, emailed and messaged NBC 5 about similar problems in cities all across North Texas. Many bills are at least doubling in amount and usage, and some are even quadrupling.
"I would say this was an extreme year," said Sachse City Manager Gina Nash. "It was very rare."
Nash said her office has received dozens of calls about high bills and she’s been in contact with other city managers who said the same thing: Residents are using more water. She said this is the first time in a long time citizens are really watering their lawns.
“People are used to their flowers blooming and their grass is green and their yards are looking lush," she said. "They work to keep it that way [and] they've had to increase their water usage dramatically."
Nash said there was a water hike last October with the North Texas Municipal Water District that went from $1.87/1,000 gallons to $2.06/1,000 gallons.
“We had a rate increase people didn’t really feel because they weren’t using water," she said. "So this is the first time they’re really using water this year and they’re experiencing high bills."
McBurnett said she did start to water her lawn sparingly in the past few weeks, but not nearly enough to explain the dramatic hike in her bill.
Nearly every other city has provided the same explanation and so far and no one has reported problems with billing, software or inaccurate meter readings. Despite not finding anything wrong in her city, she is encouraging residents to contact the city if they feel something is not right with their bill.
McBurnett said she’s in contact with the city about checking her bill and hopes there is some sort of error.
“I’m lucky I can pay it," she said. "We don’t want to pay it, but if I owe it, I owe it."
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