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Houston Mayor Whitmire Unveils Water Bill Improvement Plan to Tackle Accuracy Concerns

Houston Mayor John Whitmire announced details of his Water Bill Improvement Plan during a press conference on April 4 to help address Houstonians’ frustrations with inaccurate water bills.

Houston water customers have been grappling with inaccurate water bills and overcharges for several years. Former Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with City Council members, passed nine ordinances in December aimed at bringing relief to residents. Whitmire, who has been in office for 94 days, said he has no intentions of reversing the ordinances, but his version of water bill relief will accelerate solutions to the ongoing problem.

Starting in January, Houston Public Works will begin replacing 125,000 broken remote read devices. Single-family residential customers will have set usage calculated starting April 1, which will be reflected in their May bill. As part of the improvements, customers can now schedule in-person or virtual appointments. Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock said the plan cost the city approximately $35 million in direct costs.

Houston Public Works has outlined more details through the Improvement Plan Dashboard, which includes details on how set usage will be handled and new customer service enhancements.

For set usage:

  • Accounts older than 1 year will be calculated using the average water consumption available on the account, up to 36 months.
  • Accounts less than 1 year old will be calculated with 3,000 gallons per month, which is based on the average consumption for new Houston water accounts.
  • Customers will return to actual water usage billing once their remote read device has been verified and is proven to be transmitting accurate water usage.

Whitmire said Houstonians who receive an “outrageous” water bill for the month of April are told to ignore it and call public works or the mayor’s office.

For customer service enhancements:

  • In-person customer service availability will be expanded.
  • New quality control measures to alert possible inaccurate bills will be implemented.
  • Relief requests will be streamlined into one centralized form.
  • Utility bills are being redesigned to make it easier for customers to understand.

“I ran for office to fix things,” Whitmire said. “If this plan is not a huge improvement and gets water billing off the news, then there’s going to be a lot of people looking for work. That’s how dead serious I am, but I’m confident.”

Haddock said after the initial 125,000 broken readers are replaced, a system will be put in place to fix any following failing readers within a 90-day window.