Has the city upgraded water meter sensors in your neighborhood?

KPRC 2 ‘Our Town’ dives into Alief/Westwood area + Amy Davis checks out water meter status

In the KPRC 2 ‘Our Town’ initiative we are looking into parts of Houston you may not see every day. We spent the day looking at hot spots and trends in the Alief/Westwood area. While there are a lot of cool things about the area, it is not immune to the water billing problems draining so many customers all across Houston.

Investigative reporter Amy Davis is doggedly pursuing resolutions to the problems plaguing the water department. We asked her to show us how people who live in Alief/Westwood are just trying to pay what they owe.

Amy Davis helps customer sort out water bill issue. A Houston water bill relief plan still in the works. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Meter issues often cause surprise bill for water customers

If you have followed our ‘DRAINED’ investigation for the last 20 months, you know the biggest problem with the water department is that the equipment that sends your meter readings back to the city- the remote read sensors, are failing. More than 125,000 of them don’t work at all. This is why the city can’t get the meter readings to send customers accurate bills for what they actually owe.

The city is replacing the remote read sensors on all 480,000 meters across the city. They say the entire project will take a decade.

We asked which areas have already received the new sensors since Public Works started installing them in 2021. As of late December, 78,905 of the sensors have been replaced.

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The areas in dark purple on this map show where the most remote read sensors have been replaced.

  • Alief is zip code 77099 = 27% of all meters have the new sensor.
  • In 77072 = almost 24% of the new devices have been installed.
  • Westwood is zip code 77036 = Only 11% of all meters have the new sensor.
  • And in 77074 = just 9% have the new sensor.

In December, Houston city council members pressed Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock for information on when and where the sensors would be installed next.

“We will prepare... we do not have prepared today. We will prepare a map that shows the sequence in which we are deploying them citywide,” Carol Haddock said in a public City Council meeting on December 6, 2023.

More than two months later, council members we spoke with have still not received that information.

Why do new meter sensors matter anyway?

Getting the new sensors should mean your bills are based on actual meter readings and would therefore, be more accurate. We have also asked Public Works for a deployment schedule that shows which neighborhoods are getting the devices next and when.

We’re hoping Westwood and many of these areas that show almost no new sensors will get some attention very soon.

What the city is saying about the problems

When we asked the deployment plan for the remaining new sensors, Houston Public Works public information officer Erin Jones emailed us this statement:

“Houston Public Works is committed to providing accurate water bills for City of Houston water customers every month. This includes reading and maintaining more than 500,000 meters throughout Houston. Houston Public Works has installed over 85,000 electronic remote reading devices to date.

Our team is actively working with Mayor John Whitmire to finalize details of his plan to address the community’s concerns over their water bills and the deployment of remote reading devices. Director Haddock did make that promise, and the mayor and Houston Public Works aim to brief city council members and our residents when the plan is ready to launch. We are committing to getting it right for our deserving Houstonians.”

QUICK ACCESS: YOUTUBE playlist with the entire ‘DRAINED’ series.

About the Author

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

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