Why the price of your water may be different than your neighbors

‘DRAINED’ Investigation into Houston water bills looks into what you are paying and why

If you use double the amount of water as your neighbor you would expect to pay twice as much on your bill. But the math is not making sense in the city of Houston Public Works Department and we are trying to get answers.

Transparency is what our ‘DRAINED’ Investigations are all about. You should be able to understand what you’re being charged and why. When one Houston homeowner couldn’t figure it out or get the water department to explain his bills, he called Investigator Amy Davis.

Amy Davis tackles another issue in the KPRC 2 'DRAINED' Investigation into Houston water bills. One Houston water customer says he's been trying to figure out his water bill problem since 2019. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Kevin Anderson lives a very modest lifestyle in this small home on Doulton Street in Southeast Houston.

“Just the average things. I mean dishes, laundry, showers and that’s it,” explains Anderson.

He’s questioned his water bills since 2019 wondering how in the world he could use 4,000 gallons of water a month with no leaks and no real landscaping he’s watering.

“I checked with one of my neighbors and I’m paying like two to three times more than she is, and she has more adults living in our home,” he said.

We checked the bills. In October the city billed Kevin Anderson $88.28 for 4,000 gallons of water. They billed his neighbor $50.48 for 3,000 gallons.

Anderson went line by line on both bills to try and make it make sense.

Anderson’s bill

  • $29.88 for the residential consumption water charge
  • 4,000 gallons

Neighbor’s bill

  • $4.47 for the residential consumption water charge
  • 3,000 gallons

This is a pretty big disparity.

“I’m trying to figure out what’s the math, what’s how is this being calculated. I mean, what’s the matter, this math, there’s no rhyme or no reason to this math that they’re using to bill,” said Anderson.

When we asked public works to explain it Spokesperson Erin Jones sent us a 12-page document detailing Houston water rates.

The rate you pay for water depends on how much you use and the size of your meter

'DRAINED' investigation looks into how city water rates are calculated. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

But we noticed the biggest jump in rates between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons. Once you use more than 3,000 gallons of water your rate increases by five times.

For example, Anderson and his neighbor both paid $7.78 for the residential base water charge and $14.35 for the residential case sewer charge. But when we did the math we see Anderson is paying $7.47 for every 1,000 gallons of water while his neighbor’s rate is just $1.49 for every 1,000 gallons. “Every month there’s no way you can make sense of it with the bill,” said Anderson.

Amy Davis tackles another issue in the KPRC 2 'DRAINED' Investigation into Houston water bills. One Houston water customer says he's been trying to figure out his water bill problem since 2019. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

While we were here we scooped the rainwater out of Anderson’s meter box so we could check his reading. The little red dial that would indicate a link if it were spinning was not moving. A revelation that doesn’t make Anderson feel any better.

“I just feel that it’s an outrage. And there needs to be a voice for this to be heard. And when I saw that you was actively being the voice for the community, I wanted to do as much as I could to let you know. Hey, this is, someone else that is having this problem, and I’m at wit’s end. I don’t know what else to do. I was reaching out for help.”

Amy Davis tackles another issue in the KPRC 2 'DRAINED' Investigation into Houston water bills. One Houston water customer says he's been trying to figure out his water bill problem since 2019. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

How to check the math on your Houston water bill

We are breaking down the line items you will see on your water bill and showing you how you can check the math. Even when you do that it does nothing for all of the people like Anderson who don’t think they are using the amount of water the city is charging them for.

We will not stop the ‘DRAINED’ Investigation

Amy Davis and the team will keep bringing you any new developments on Houston water bills including the new plan Mayor Whitmire is expected to release soon.

If you have a water bill issue, there’s a good chance we’ve covered that topic. Check out all of our ‘DRAINED’ Investigation to find the help you need.

Email Amy Davis or Producer Andrea Slaydon if you can’t find the help you need.


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.