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Water district takes blame for skyrocketing water bills

Water district takes blame for skyrocketing water bills

By Daniel Gutierrez. CREATED Nov 17, 2011

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) - Many of you have turned to Action News with complaints about the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The problem, skyrocketing bills. So we took those bills straight to the Water District and uncovered mistakes that may have you asking, how do I know if my water bill is accurate? It's a Contact 13 consumer alert.

"Our water bills are normally below $40 a month and all of a sudden I got one for $1720.12." says water customer Bob Pickens.

"They've said that I used 456,000 gallons of water... I'm speechless," says water customer Sharon Romero.

Two customers of the Las Vegas Valley Water District. Both reeling from sticker shock. Sharon can't believe her latest water bill.

"My bill has never been over $40 a month. And this time I received my bill, it was $2,184.54," says Sharon.

Hope you're sitting down when you hear this. According to the Water District Sharon used 456,000 gallons of water. Sharon says she knew the bill had to be a mistake, so she called the Water District. Sharon says customer service told her there was probably a leak on the property. So her next call was to a plumber.

"He checked everywhere there would be water, and there's no type of leak on this property," says Sharon.

But Sharon says she was told by the Water District, she's still responsible for her bill. Frustrated and with no where to turn Sharon emailed Action News for help. And we went straight to the Water District for answers.

"Actually it was our mistake. And it has now been corrected," says the Water District's Scott Huntley.

Actually, it's a $2,140 mistake. After contacting Action News, Sharon's bill is now only $44. If she hadn't reached out to us, Sharon would have eneded up paying for the Water District's mistake. So how could this happen? Scott says Sharon's water meter information wasn't properly transmitted to the Water District. And that's not all. The Water District caught the mistake, and sent two different technicians to manually check this meter. But both of those readings were also wrong.

"There are going to be in any system, whether it's a power bill or a gas bill or any bill of any kind, in any system there can be an error. Errors will happen," says Scott.

And yes, Contact 13 uncovered another error. Customer Bob Pickens saw his October bill jump to more than $1,700.

"I like to had a heart attack. My wife and I are on a fixed income," says Bob.

Bob says his water bills are normally below $40 a month. He's even taken out the irrigation system outside his home and he's tested the meter himself.

"If we shut down everything in the house, toilet tanks and everything and you come out here and look at the meter the meter's not moving. So there's no leak anywhere," says Bob.

Bob says he tried calling the Water District, but couldn't get anyone on the phone. That's when he decided to contact Action News.

"$1,700 is a little ridiculous to me. And if I ran 87,000 gallons of water on this house, there would be water in the streets," says Bob.

So again, Contact 13 asked the Water District to explain. 

"Once again that was a human error. A manual meter read was being done on his meter and the person who did the manual read made a transposition error," says Scott.

And like Sharon, Bob's bill is also being adjusted.

"His actual bill isn't going to be $1,720. His actual bill is going to be $24," says Scott.

Bob and Sharon aren't alone. We've heard from dozens of viewers facing sticker shock. They're emailing us and contacting our Call for Action hotlines. So we made a request.

"We have tons of emails just like this. Can we get a commitment that you guys will go through this with consumers who really think that they are not being billed properly?" asks Tricia. "Everyone that you have, that you bring to us we will have looked at. Yes," says Scott.

So here's the Contact 13 bottom line. We've got your back Las Vegas and we will hold the Water District to that commitment. Many of you at home may wonder if your bills are correct. The Water District claims their billing system is actually 99.8% accurate, meaning there's a very small margin of error. But if you think there's a mistake with your bill, we want to know. Email us at 13investigates@ktnv.com and we'll contact the Water District for you.