PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — Jon Browning was out of the country for about a week and half in August. When he returned, he discovered flooding in his front yard.

Jon Browning discovered the water leak after returning home from out of the country. (KXAN Photo/Arezow Doost)

“Our main line broke,” Browning said in an email to KXAN investigators. “That’s what put 57,000 gallons of water into the lawn.”

He said he immediately notified the City of Pflugerville’s utility department. 

“Their reply was, ‘oh yeah, we saw your meter was going crazy,'” Browning said. “We had no notification of any kind — email, phone, text, not even a note on the door.”

Terri Toledo, director of management services with the City of Pflugerville, said in an email that they do notify homeowners if they have high water volume. In this case, Toledo explained that the utility billing staff sent a technician to notify the family.

Browning said that didn’t happen until after he called the city about the leak. He added that had he been notified before his call, a neighbor could have helped shut the water off while they weren’t home.

Catastrophic Water Leak Credit

“It was flooded — badly flooded down there at the low part, everything over there — it’s completely saturated,” he said while pointing to the front yard.

Browning explained he typically pays a little over $70 for their water use every month, but in September, just one bill was $439.94.

He added that on top of that, they had to pay for the repair, which he said cost $1,400. 

Browning said he tried to request a credit to their water bill because he believes it qualifies as a catastrophic water leak, but was told by the city he needed a permit.

The city said unless there is sufficient photo documentation, the front yard may have to be redug so the work can be inspected. (KXAN Photo: Arezow Doost)

The city details online the process, explaining it may allow a credit if there’s been “a minimum usage of 40,000 gallons more than the previous month’s usage.” Toilet leaks or obvious, avoidable leaks don’t qualify. 

Toledo said the city started the Catastrophic Leak Credit in November 2020 and 39 accounts have qualified for the credit since then. 

“I was told that in order for me to get that, that relief, I would have to hire the company to come back out or actually file for the permit through the city, and then have the company come back out and dig it back up again, to prove to the city that the work was done correctly,” Browning said.

Toledo declined an on-camera interview but in an email said, “We handle all of these instances on a case by case basis and in any emergency repair we are flexible to accommodate. We have been in contact with Mr. Browning and he needs the appropriate inspection to ensure the work has been performed correctly.”

Warning to others

“I don’t agree with their policy by any means because I have all the other paperwork and the pictures to show for it,” Browning said. “The work was done by a A-plus Better Business Bureau rated company.”

Browning added he now just wants to warn other homeowners.

“Hopefully you can get ahead of the leak in time, before you get a big water bill,” said Browning. “We’re under water restrictions. And, and the message that it’s being sent from the city that they’re not too concerned about 57,000 gallons coming out of a single residence.”

The City of Austin offers similar relief to customers. The city states online, “If you have experienced a leak that resulted in higher than average bill, submit a request for a water leak bill adjustment.”

Homeowners are urged to check with their water department to find out if the type of relief is provided.