Austin residents using more water and energy this summer

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin residents are being reminded to brace themselves for a potentially high utility bill this upcoming month.

According to a city memo, water usage for July 2016 was up 8 percent compared to the same month last year. Information from Austin Water indicates 2.6 billion gallons of water was pumped in July. Even though the Austin-area had the wettest May on record, over the past two months the area has fallen back into “abnormally dry” conditions. As water demand increases over the peak summer months, customer bills will also see a sharp increase.

But Austinites aren’t just using more water this summer, Austin Energy indicates for the first time in at least six years, the average residential customer consumed more electric power in June than in the previous year. In June 2015, customers used an average of 916 kilowatt hours compared to 963 kilowatt hours in June 2016.

Since August tends to be the month where customers use the most energy (about 20-25 percent higher than June use), customers should be cognizant of the summer rate structure and the steep tier system built into residential rates.

According to the memo, some council members’ offices have already received complaints from constituents about high water bills. KXAN reached out to all 10 council members to learn whether their offices have already started receiving an influx of high bill complaints. While Council Member Ellen Troxclair says her office has noticed an increase, others, like Council Member Don Zimmerman, say it’s too soon to know whether the burden of high bills will be anything like last year’s.

“I’m preparing our field staff here in the local office, we’re preparing them for the phones to start ringing and people are going to be very, very, very, very upset with the amount of their bill,” Zimmerman said. “The problem here is the out-of-control tiering that really punishes you if you need to use more water.”

As a result of high water bills last summer-the city insists customers were using more water due to a long stretch of dry weather following all of the rain received in the spring of 2015-the Austin City Council revised city code to allow customers with unusually high water bills to qualify for a potential bill adjustment. Customers can only qualify for an adjustment if they meet the following:

If the application is approved, the customer would receive an adjustment that provides for a credit of 50 percent of the volume above the customer’s normal usage with the remaining amount of consumption charged at a discounted rate.

If you still have an issue with your utility bill, you can contact the Utility Customer Service Customer Care Center at 512-494-9400.

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