Houston Public Works plans to send a 'set rate' to water customers in May to reduce high bills

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Thursday, April 25, 2024
Houston Public Works plans to send 'set rate' to reduce high bills
The fight to fix Houston's high water bill problem took the stage at city hall during a committee hearing, and your next bill may include a set rate.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you get water from the City of Houston, you may notice something different with your bill next month.

The fight to fix Houston's high-water bill problem took center stage at city hall during a committee hearing on Wednesday. Public Works said 125,000 households have meters connected to remote read devices that don't transmit data. In order to help customers, the May bill will include something that's called a set rate for your house.

The figure is something they came up with using your meter. It's a device that Public Works says still works, but requires a manual read.

"This then lets them know and puts them on notice that this is what you can expect moving forward because you have good functioning equipment in the ground, and you may need to make changes in your lifestyle if you think that's a little too high," Public Works COO Randy Macchi explained.

Public Works said it's also made changes if you get a high water bill, as there are in-person and virtual options to talk to someone.

Also, the forms they fill out aren't as complicated. Public Works said it fixed nearly 9,000 meters this month, but it may take until the end of the year to do the rest.

"The reality is this is going to go on for any customer on the set usage for as long as it takes to actually get a working remote read device installed," Macchi said.

Another issue Public Works is dealing with is water leaks. Last summer and fall, Public Works says that in overtime costs alone, taxpayers spent nearly $2 million on leak repairs.

The city is preparing to launch a dashboard to update Houstonians on leak issues. It's a new place to see what's expected to be another leaky summer.

City leaders said they need upwards of $240 million to replace aging lines. But they also need workers.

Public Works is short more than 300 workers. Because of this, if you call 311 about a leak, it may not get fixed in the agency's goal of two weeks.

"It's because our teams, we only have so many and there are only so many repairs they can make and they're prioritizing those need to goes and eventually that individual is falling further and further on that list," Houston Public Works employee Gabrial Mussio said. "We're doing our best to address that."

If you're unsure if your smart water meter is working, Public Works says you'll find out soon. In your upcoming water bill, it'll tell you.

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