As some water bills soar, Augusta Utilities addressing complaints

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 11:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - For months now, people have reached out to us about rising water bills. And we’re not talking about a few bucks. Some folks in Richmond County are seeing their bills go up by hundreds of dollars in just weeks. We sat down with the Augusta Utilities director to find out what’s causing the issue.

Augusta Utilities says there’s not much the meter can do wrong. The only issues come in when the meter reader reads it wrong or if there’s a dead battery or bad wire, but they stress how rare that is.

But if you look at a Nextdoor post, you can see that off-the-chart readings aren’t as rare as they should be:

“How is it possible that a two person household with normal water consumption used 44,000 gallons of water in a billing cycle. Did we fill a swimming pool that we didn’t know about?” said Jason Murphy, homeowner.

Augusta Utilities uses a base starting point at 3,000 gallons of water per month for two and half people. Outdoor use is where most water is used especially in the summer.

“Most people really don’t have any idea how much water they use,” said Wes Byne, director of Augusta Utilities.

A half-acre lawn watered an inch once a week uses around 30,000 gallons per month. But Murphy and his wife have hardly used their sprinklers, just four times since they moved in in March.

“And they have to be doing it wrong there’s something wrong. We’re not home just flushing toilets all day right I mean that’s the only way this would make sense is if every five minutes I went and flushed a toilet,” said Murphy.

Their first water bill was $31, the second $44, and this past month it was $238. So using 7,000 to 10,000 gallons the first two months to 44,000 this past month. And they checked, they don’t have any leaks.

“There’s never a situation where the disk turns faster than the water because the water drives it so it’s just not possible,” said Byne.

Augusta Utilities says they’ve only seen about five of these issues in the past three months. 40 percent of meters are read manually. Right now city leaders are looking to spend $8 million on new automatic digital meters.

“When people call in and say, ‘I’ve got an issue,’ we’re very responsive to that,” said Byne.

“I tried to call them back to discuss because what they read that time didn’t really indicate that we would be using that much water and I didn’t get an answer for two weeks,” said Murphy.

As for Murphy and his wife, Augusta Utilities told them they’d be monitoring their water starting next week to hopefully find some answers.

Augusta Utilities is putting out a video in the next week or so to explain how to read a meter, that way you can check yourself to see what your water usage looks like. As for the $8 million for the new meters that will be up to commissioners to approve at their next meeting.

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