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Water customers with big bills caused by leaks

Water customers with big bills caused by leaks

By Daniel Gutierrez. CREATED Apr 27, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) - "You must have a leak."

It's the answer a lot of water customers are getting, when they call customer service about exorbitant bills.

Contact 13's Tricia Kean sat down with the head of the Las Vegas Valley Water District to get to the bottom of why these customers feel their money is going down the drain.

"Is this their way of getting more money into their coffers," says Linda Lee.

She's stuck with a high bill and the Water District says it's the result a leak. But it's a leak, Linda says she can't find.

"We as a consumer, we have no recourse," says Linda.

The "mystery leak", as some customers call it, is a common complaint we hear a lot at Contact 13.

"I have no grass, no pool, I have no spa, anything like that, and I have no leaks," says Linda.

For October 27 through November 29, Linda's water bill was nearly $900 for 191,000 gallons. And the next bill, more than $1,000 for 219,000 gallons.

"Each time I talked to them, I was in tears by the time I got off the phone because I was so frustrated," says Linda.

The Water District says they manually checked Linda's meter, and verified it was working correctly. And at one point the water flow actually reached nearly 8 gallons every minute. That's 11,000 gallons a day. According to the Water District, that's almost what an average single family home uses in an entire month.

"My house should have been floating down the street," says Linda.

But on December 29 of last year, for some reason, the Water District says the continuous water flow stopped.

So we wanted to ask Pat Mulroy, General Manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District about this mysterious leak so many people complain about.

"Here's the thing that seems fishy to consumers Pat. They don't do anything and all of a sudden, boom, it's fixed. They don't do anything. They don't get their toilet fixed and then the next month their bill is back low. I think people have a question about how is this possible?" asks Tricia.

"Well a valve can fix itself. I mean that can happen," says Mulroy.

Mulroy says many customers don't realize how quickly a leak can add up.

"It's amazing how much water you can lose just by a dripping faucet, or by a stuck toilet valve, or by a stuck irrigation valve. And then people get these high bills because they have a leak," says Mulroy.

And Mulroy says if a customer can't find the source of the problem, they should insist the Water District check it out.

"We will send a meter person out. We will check that meter. We'll even pull that meter and bench test that meter. In rare cases, and I can't say that it doesn't happen, the meter malfunctions and we fix the bill," says Mulroy.

In the end, Mulroy says she knows why Contact 13 has seen so many complaints.

"A lot of those were a result of the economy. I mean people are really looking at every single dime a whole lot closer than they did in the past," says Mulroy.

But Linda says she's stuck. She's now paying-off her high water bill in monthly installments. But she says, she still wants answers about her bill.

"What's to say 6 months from now I don't get another $2,000 bill, and they're saying the meter is running again?" says Linda.

So here's the Contact 13 bottom line. If you suspect you have a leak on your property, the Water District has check list for finding and fixing a leak. 

If you're not getting the answers you need from the Water District, send an email to 13Investigates@KTNV.com.