A water conserving mom fighting a water bill nightmare…

Usually I’m here offering suggestions and solutions.  Today, I’m just looking for answers.

faucet runningFirst, the backstory:  We are, without doubt, a water conserving family.  We have water efficient appliances, have taught our kids to conserve and have put all of the best water saving tips in place.  Our usual water bill runs between $45-$65 per quarter.  The accompanying sewer usage fee costs us a fairly equal rate per quarter, so for this time of year, I was expecting a bill of just under a hundred dollars.

The bill arrived. (Hold onto your hats:) $260!!!  Did I choke?  Yes… I did.  (And I also swore profusely!)

After 57 minutes(!) of waiting for a City of Cleveland Division of Water customer service representative they put my bill “on hold” and schedule a service appointment.

Yesterday the tech arrived, ran all the tests, said everything was in working order  – no leaks, no problems detected –  and that he would report his findings to the office.  I was advised to call tomorrow for a “decision”.  What EXACTLY does THAT mean?… a “decision”?water mtr

The interesting thing is that the tech also assessed our previous 16 months of bills and commented “Wow, your family really IS efficient!” According to him, a family of four typically uses just over 3 MCF units per quarter (this is the measurement of usage in cubic feet per thousand).  He also says, when they are teenagers, it normally raises to 4!  We have been consistently at, or just below, 2… yes, 2!

So what gives? Honest answer… I have no idea.  And what are we supposed to do?  The curious thing… my mother-in-law’s last quarter bill?  $500+!  This quarter?  $1200!  WHAT is going on with the Cleveland Division of Water?  How do you battle what they claim is true when you simply know it cannot be?

Has this ever happened to you?  What is the solution?  Because this time, I have absolutely NO ANSWERS…

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13 thoughts on “A water conserving mom fighting a water bill nightmare…

  1. I’ve constantly seen our water bill rise, while our usage remains the same. The simple reason is because people complain about new taxes, but if they get a higher water bill, they assume it was their fault for using too much. Funds are diverted from one department to another, and in the end, we pay more, but without new taxes.

    My water bill also has a surcharge to cover the bills of people who don’t pay their own water bill. Confusing, eh? So not only am I paying for my water, but if someone else doesn’t pay, I’m paying for their water, too!

  2. What tests did the Tech perform? Assuming that you have a municipal line (likely at the street) and your water is piped from that line, there are many opportunities for leaks. Depending on your municipality, you or the city can be responsible for paying for the water use, even if it is an underground leak.

    1. double check your water meter yourself. your previous bill likely has the previous reading on it. check it now and compare in case it was misread for your bill. By the way, take your kids out to your water meter and show them how it works! They may even get in on some approximate calculations.

    2. I hope the tech did this simple check: If not, request it or do it yourself (at your own risk).
    One way to check for underground leaks is to turn the water off to your house (the “main”). Make sure all of your water using appliances are off and that your water heater is not filling up with water. After you know that no water is coming into the house, check your water meter. Still spinning? then you likely have a leak between the city line and your home.

    3. Even if your service line has a leak, the utility co. will usually assume that you used the water unless you demonstrate otherwise. If the tech did not do this, request it or get a licensed plumber to take a “look” at the line and trace a leak. If a leak in the service line is detected, they can typically help you contact the municipality and provide a signed letter – it should get you a credit on your bill next. Your line may have a tracer wire in it, or it may require digging (I hope not – don’t dig unless absolutely needed). Most municipalities have a “leak adjustment policy” in either codes or on the water providers website. I will say, however that in these instances, leaks often cause a much higher bill (sometimes 10 x higher or more).

    4. Is anyone stealing water? from an exterior spigot? is it a shared line?

  3. Well Hello!

    I went through this nightmare for 9 months last year. I spent about 60 hours going back and forth with the Cleveland Division Of Water. I even created a crazy little website. (Not too little. The Plain Dealer picked it up.)

    Now, it’s starting again.

    If you, or any one else want a chance at getting thnigs resolved, do the following;

    1. Ask the Div. of Water to put your bill on hold, because you are disputing it. (By calling)
    2. Send an email to customer service telling them that you disagree with the bill, and that it’s impossible that you used that amount of water. (You didn’t).
    3.Go to http://www.AdjustMyWaterBill.com Comment and read the comments. The Water Company knows about the site
    4. Do not give up. Drive them crazy.

    Joel Libava
    .-= Joel Libava´s last blog ..Contact Information For Cleveland Division Of Water =-.

  4. Never had this with water but years ago had a similar issue with electric company. One month our bill doubled and we were told we were penalized for: USING TOO LITTLE ELECTRICITY the month before! Their basic “argument” was that if EVERYONE used less electricity, naturally, they would have to raise the rates because they would not have enough money to run operations! So if you use too little, you are penalized. I would have laughed but I couldn’t. Who knows what craziness you’ll turn up. Good luck!

  5. Yikes that would be an unwelcome surprise! We are just starting to deal with a water bill ourselves in our new home so thanks for the giving me something else to worry about. :p

    In my former townhouse we had a mix up with the electric company – it turns out they had been reading the wrong unit and charging us for their usage and them for ours – for three years!!! It took awhile for it to get straightened out but at least we came out a little bit ahead. You just never know with those utility companies – they can do just about anything they want and most people just go along with it. pretty scary. I hope you get your situation worked out.
    .-= Natural Health Goodies´s last blog ..Frozen Yogurt Hearts A Creative Healthy Homemade Valentine Treat Idea =-.

  6. I, Unfortunately came across your blog Goolging “cleveland water bill wrong” because I, too, just received a $1300 bill! This is insane! I was hoping to come across your resolution to the problem because the city is CRAZY if they think we used 114,000+ gallons of water this quarter.

    Good luck and let me know if you get things resolved!

  7. Well friends, if you’re still following this… after 13 months I am finally “getting my day in court”… tomorrow I will have a hearing with the Water Review Board… wish me luck! Will let you know the outcome…. Thanks again for all of your input and advice!

  8. i HAVE YOU ALL BEAT. i AM A SINGLE MOM WITH 2 KIDS AND WE ARE VERY ENERGY WARE OF WHAT WE USE. I BOUGHT A HOUSE IN 8/22 AVERAGE WATER BILL IS $135 EVERY 3 MONTHS.GOT THIS WATER BILL $1534 CALLED SAID THERE WAS A MISTAKE- WATER CO. CAME REREAD THE METER- CHECKED FOR LEAKS -NONE- HAD A PLUMBER LOOK NO LEAKS- NOTHING- WENT TO THE WATER CO AND ASKED FOR PAST YEARS BILLS REPLY YOU USED IT YOU PAY FOR IT!!!!
    TO TOP IT ALL OFF I HAVE NEVER USED MY OUTSIDE WATER YET- AND I TAKE A SHOWER AT WORK 5 DAYS A WEEK AND 2 SAT A MONTH. NEW HOT WATER HEATER AND DISHWASHER!
    I ASKED FOR A METER TESTING THEY WERE NOT TO HAPPY I ASKED IF THEY WERE GOING TO TELL ME THE TRUTH – HE SAID WHAT ARE YOU SAYING THE SAME THING YOUR IMPLYING ABOUT ME.ANY THEY SAY EXCESSIVE USAGE AN INGROUND POOL USES 24000 GALLONS OF WATER! ANY IDEAS HELP!!!!

  9. Gloria – ask for a meeting with the Water Review Board. You will need to write a letter to state your disagreement. You have a right to have your ‘say’ about bills that are dramatically inflated. They will put a hold on any payments until you have your meeting. Be prepared with everything you need in your defense: old bills & statements, a statement from a third party plumber, etc. Be ready to give your defense. They will need to have past statements too but it really helps YOU if you can get your hands on those! Also, they recommended that I shut off all the water to our home when I would be away for a substantial amount of time. Take a meter reading when you leave and when you return. If the number increases, you have a faulty meter or a leak. It’s a long, annoying process but THEY have to prove that you did something to dramatically increase your usage. Good luck… it’s not fun.

  10. doreen
    i have spoken to the vice pres of water board, the man in charge of the water company. they say I have to pay it.Had meet pulled and tested – no errors. no one can find a leak in this house. went through this place and cannot find a leak.
    They said my water use is high but i know we are not using water!! This is enough to drive me nuts and no one will help. The water company service men agreed that there are no leaks
    HELP

    g;oria

  11. Gloria – the fact that you’re NOT being permitted a Water Review Board hearing is horrible! I’ve never heard of them rejecting someone for a hearing. I would demand it! I would also demand that I get a copy of bills/statements from the last two years (since you just moved into the home, right?). If they won’t co-operate with you, I would contact the media. Sincerely. Contact all the major local TV stations and tell them the story of how our Division of Water sent you a bill for over 10 TIMES the quarterly average, they will not allow you a hearing, they will not supply you with old statements, they will do NOTHING to help you… you’re a single mother just working hard to make ends meet and this is horrible. There may be a reporter willing to hear you out and carry your story. Imagine the Water Review Board ‘s reaction to THAT! If all else fails, tell the Division of Water you can’t pay it. You simply don’t have the money and they will have to put you on a payment plan and spread out the payment over multiple years, because that’s all you can afford…. but that is only a very last resort. DON’T GIVE UP! Call them every single day if you have to…remember, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease!!!” Be a squeaky wheel! Stay in touch!

  12. I have asked for a payment plan $270.00 every other week. Called newspaper he said it is totally out of this world. Ask who read the last water bill. everyone thinks that it was amiss read somewhere down the lline. marked my water meter at night and did’t move.i keep asking my kids what they use and it is next to nothing! i now turn off my water at the main all the time. a lawyer is now looking into this- i will not be able to live here if this continues.the stress and thinking and talking about is driving me and others CRAZY!!!
    1 man said he got a water bill for $7000 a month and they read it wrong 3 times!! a single lady was billed thousands in georgia and after putting a flow meter she was only using $34 a month in water!

    gloria

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