Several South Bryan County residents took to social media this week to complain about skyrocketing water bills, some saying the amount doubled, even tripled from the previous months.
They are mostly customers of Water Utility Management, based out of Savannah, however some residents cited rising bills from the City of Richmond Hill as well.
Both utilities acknowledged a rise in customer complaints this time of year. A representative from Water Utility Management said people are simply using more water, and an official from the City of Richmond Hill says the majority of concerns can “be tied to irrigation during the hot months.”
Jason and Wendy White live in the Dunham Marsh subdivision and can’t understand why their water bill went from about $150 to over $400. “Our water bill went up drastically on the last billing cycle, and we did not use water that much more (if any) than usual,” said Wendy, who attached a copy of her bill to the Bryan County News.
So did Christa Norris, who lives in Buckhead and watched her bill from Water Utility Management rise from $84 in April to $214 in June.
Lee Blair said she went from a six-person household down to two retired people, yet, in the same time frame the water bill increased significantly.
Scott Nagle lives in Tranquila Hall in Buckhead South and got a $417 bill, up from $99. “We water our grass two or three times a week but did the same last summer and never had a bill (this high),” he said.
And the list of complaints goes on …
Regina Laws said she opened her June bill and was amazed it had gone from $95 to $450. The Fort McAllister Road resident said “My husband called (Water Utility Management) and was told to check for leaks.” Nothing was found and their meter was re-checked. "Just makes all of us doubt the readings."
One of the largest bills was for Julie Morrison, who lives in Saddlebrook. “The most our water bill has ever been was $258,” Morrison said. “This time it was $625. (The bill said) we used 120,000 gallons of water in a two-month time frame which is more than we used in the entire last year.”
Tony D’Aguillo, chief experience officer for Water Utility Management said he knows what’s happening, and most residents may not like his answer.
“I’m very familiar with this. We typically find 90 percent of our calls are a result of seasonal use … outdoor watering and wells pumping more.” he said.
“The more you dig into it with customers, you find that people are watering more,” D’Aguillo said. It is very common for his company and other water utilities to get complaints around this time of year, he said, especially after the area experienced drought conditions in the spring.
With that said, D’Aguillo acknowledged that the increased water usage could also be caused by a pipe leak or other sewage problems, and in rare cases, a misread meter.
“We welcome people to read their meters and check our work,” he said.
In a written response from Richmond Hill City Clerk Dawnne Greene, “We get calls this time of year for increased utility bills. The majority of the concerns can be tied to irrigation during the hot months. In many instances, new homeowners or residents are unaware of the amount of water used for outdoor purposes.”
Greene continued, “When we are able to eliminate outdoor water use, we suggest easy tests for our customers to perform to rule out other issues. We find that the majority of these usage spikes are from something as simple as a leaking toilet, which can cause water bills to be as high as $300-500 a month if left unrepaired.”
She said residents can test for a bad seal by placing food color in the tank of their toilets at bedtime and checking the bowl for color in the morning. “If our residents find that they have a leak --whether a toilet, broken line, or in some cases even in their irrigation system, the City of Richmond Hill offers a leak adjustment program to help off-set their high bill. As always, we welcome the opportunity to speak with our customers who have concerns and will work diligently to help determine the reason for their high water usage.”
D’Aguillo also suggests residents should call his company immediately so that they can troubleshoot the issue.
Morrison said she did that. The company came out and checked her meter and said it was functioning properly. “They encouraged us to have our sprinkler system checked, which we are in the process of taking care of now. They have been nice about it and did allow me to set up a payment plan.”
But, she added, “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen and it’s even more crazy that it is happening to more people than just us.”