TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Some water customers in and around Steiner Ranch paid $500 fines to restore their water service. They said the utility was cut with little notice and for unknown reasons.
KXAN received several ReportIt tips about these water shutoffs Monday. One tip said as many as 60 people were in line at Travis County Water and Control Improvement District 17 to speak with representatives about their water service.
Holley Kenney lives in Steiner Ranch and had her service cut Monday. She visited WCID17 to find out why, and said she was told she had violated water restrictions and needed to pay $550 in fines to restore utilities.
Kenney said this news confused her. She said her family was out of the country this summer, the same time these water violations would have taken place.
“They said there must be something wrong with my system. They figured it was my irrigation, and I explained my irrigation was turned off. And she said maybe there’s a setting that’s improperly set, but I explained again – it’s turned off,” Kenney said.
Without a concrete explanation for the increased water use, Kenney said she is worried about more fines down the road.
“My first fine was $500, my second will be $1,000. I might have more fines in the future because we can’t figure out what they’re saying I’m doing wrong,” Kenney said.
Utility provider responds to water shutoffs
WCID17 provided a statement regarding Monday’s water shutoffs.
The agency said, as part of Stage 2 water restrictions, it issued fines to several hundred customers for violations and 232 water shutoff work orders.
Those restrictions limit outdoor watering to two specified days per week.
WCID17 said, since July, there have been 1,900 customers identified for wasting nine million gallons of water waste each week. Since then, it has reduced that number of violators to under 500 as of last week.
About the shutoffs, WCID17 said among those 232 ordered shutoffs – 22 customers had their water cut off despite recently coming into compliance. The agency said it has apologized to those customers and offered a credit on their accounts for the error.
“We never enjoy having to take these steps but at the end of the day we here at WCID No.17 are responsible for ensuring a sustainable water supply for all of our customers and we must enforce our conservation restrictions,” WCID17 General Manager Jason Homan stated.
The agency also said its AMI meters are “a significant improvement over the old meters that needed to be replaced. The meters are guaranteed to be at least 98.5% accurate for 20 years.”
Accuracy of water meters called into question
Kenney said she believes her water meter may have been misread or there was a mistake in WCID17’s system.
Jeanie Campbell is also a WCID17 water customer and questions the accuracy of the meters.
Campbell said before new water meters were installed this spring, she averaged about 5,300 gallons a month.
She said over the last few months that number has doubled, then tripled. Her latest bill indicates she’s used 39,000 gallons. For perspective, the average swimming pool holds 20,000 gallons of water.
In a conversation about possible inaccuracies with its water meters, WCID17 requested Campbell’s contact information to reach out and look for possible water leaks.
Campbell’s home does not have a swimming pool and inspectors have not found a leak in her system.
She said the growing price of her water bills has strained her fixed income as she and her mother who also lives in the home are both retired.
“And the bills keep going from $95 to $178 to $227. And in my opinion, I need to stop the bleeding,” Campbell said.