Fort Worth Water Department workers visited nearly 4,200 residents in August and September — far more than usual — who had called the city to say their water bills were too high.
Field investigators found 10 water leaks, nine stopped meters and two misread meters. The remaining complaints were chalked up to “sticker shock,” experienced by customers when they received their July or August bill, according to a department report to the City Council on Tuesday.
41.8 percent Rise in water consumption in Fort Worth from June to July
The report, requested by some council members who said they had received numerous complaints from constituents about their bills, found what they suspected: After a couple months of epic rainfall this spring, hot, dry weather set in and water consumption went up.
Fort Worth is not alone. Several Tarrant County cities reported receiving complaints about increased bills. Like Fort Worth, after investigating, they found it came down mostly to water consumption.
Social media helped fuel complaints. Private online forums, such as Next Door, where residents chat about what’s going on in their neighborhood, were inundated with posts about high water bills.
I continue to get asked about the bills, too.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price
Councilwoman Ann Zadeh said a some of her neighbors are still talking about high water bills on Next Door.
“I continue to get asked about the bills, too,” said Mayor Betsy Price.
The more water you use, the more you pay, says John Carman, the city’s water director.
“I talked with one lady in Southlake who told me her water bill was over $600,” Carman said. “She wasn’t happy. The reality is, it’s the nature of our pricing model and the hot, dry months. The shock will go away as the weather gets cooler and we have one good rainstorm.”
Rain is forecast to begin Thursday and possibly last through the weekend.
According to the Fort Worth report, less water was consumed in the city through June compared with the same period of the previous three years. But once the rainfall ended, “water use ramped up significantly.”
“We are confident that the dramatic change in weather in the typical weather pattern was the biggest contributor leading to customer calls concerning their water bills,” the report said.
Consumption rose 33.5 percent from May to June and 41.8 percent from June to July, marking the second- and third-highest increases since 2011, when consumption rose 48 percent from May to June, when water usage was unrestricted.
In August and September 2013 and the same two months in 2014, the Water Department fielded an average of 3,000 calls regarding bills.