Some League City residents say their water bills have soared for no good reason and they doubt the accuracy of the city’s “smart meters.”

Hidden Lakes resident Gina Conklin, for example, said her water bill is too high at $433 and she wants answers.

The city gets a number of inquiries like hers every month and each case is looked at specifically, City Manager John Baumgartner said.

“If someone gets an abnormally high reading, we ask them to contact us as soon as they see it,” he said. “We will look at their water usage. We get a lot of concerned citizens in the summertime when water use inches up.”

League City will not process penalties or interruptions for nonpayment of water utility service through Sept. 30 because of Hurricane Harvey, city officials said.

There are a multitude of possibilities that could account for a high water bill, Baumgartner said.

“Maybe it’s a hose left open or a toilet flush valve getting stuck open,” he said. “There’s a variety of things that can happen and does happen. Sometimes, there’s an explanation, and if there’s not an explanation, we will credit a water bill if we think it’s appropriate.”

Water systems need to be actively looked at and regulated as seasons change, Baumgartner said.

“I’ve seen irrigation systems where it’s 800 or 900 gallons every time you water,” he said. “They need to be seasonally adjusted. A normal residential customer in the wintertime uses about 7,000 gallons, maybe in the summer 15,000. When you start using more than that, the cost per thousand gallons goes up.”

The city claimed that Conklin’s high water usage was because of irrigation, she said.

“I questioned the League City Water Department last month with the $433 water bill and they claimed that it’s my irrigation running from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” she said. “I told them those hours are impossible as we have it set on an irrigation timer controller and no settings have been changed in any prior months.”

A technician sent by the city told her the smart meters have a tendency to malfunction, Conklin said.

“He finally admitted himself that he doesn’t know what’s going on,” she said. “His exact words were that ‘these smart meters aren’t smart.’ They give off inaccurate readings and they lose signal. He said that I actually had an old wire signal and he changed it out to a new one to hopefully get better signal and accurate readings.”

The city employee’s comments to Conklin are inaccurate at best, Baumgartner said.

“It is a mechanical device and to say that a meter never malfunctions would be an incorrect statement,” he said. “It needs to be in the context of what we see. We have 33,000 meters and they’re not 100 percent foolproof but they’re pretty darn good.”

The city’s explanation for League City resident Jen Manuel Clark’s high water bill made no sense, she said.

“The dates they gave us we were out of town for most,” she said. “No pool, sprinklers turned off, and we’ve been out of town. I’m almost terrified. What can we do? I’m worried to see the next one if our current bill is so high. We have had our sprinkler system off for nearly two months now.”

The city is open to inquiries that residents might have, Assistant City Manager Rebecca Underhill said.

“As always, we welcome any questions or concerns about billing issues and investigate each one on a case-by-case basis,” she said.

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com

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