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SAWS adjusted 70,000 water bills in last 2 years

70K bills have been adjusted by SAWS over last two years. (Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

In 2015, the dollar amount adjusted on San Antonio Water System bills for that year alone was 7 million.

It prompted change in the way SAWS operates and there is more to come.

"I thought my husband forgot to pay the bill and it was like double months," said SAWS customer, Laura Senser.

She got her first $325 water bill in July, followed by a $365 bill in August.

"I called and said there's absolutely no explanation for this," Senser said.

SAWS responded with a series of trouble shooting questions.

Senser then began asking her own questions online on a neighborhood app.

"I just asked a general question if anyone else was experiencing extremely high water bills, double to triple and I had quite an eye-opening response," Senser said.

Equally surprising to Senser was the number of bills SAWS adjusted in the last couple years.

Out of nearly 6 million bills sent out annually, SAWS corrected 45,967 bills in 2015.

They adjusted 27,491 bills in 2016.

The dollar amount of the 2015 adjustments alone was 7 million.

"When we really delved into it in 2015, we found that up to 14% were estimated and of course that was unacceptable," said SAWS spokeswoman, Anne Hayden.

In response to hundreds of complaints, SAWS doubled down on meter reading, reducing the number of estimations to now .5%.

"It's certainly understandable that someone would be upset, that they would want a correct bill and we're certainly working on our side to reduce it from a manual perspective," Hayden said.

Looking at billing errors from both 2015 and 2016, there was one commonality.

Each year the number of adjustments due to bad meter reads was close to 8,000.

Hayden said it's part of the reason SAWS will be transitioning to automated meter reading in the next couple years.

"Your meter would automatically send signals saying how much water they're using," Hayden explained.

The new technology will cost upwards of 100 million dollars and will be paid for by SAWS customers over a number of years.

SAWS is also on a 5 year plan to increase rates, which explains part of the increase in Senser's bill.

"We set up a 5 year plan on what we're committed to on no more than this amount each year," Hayden.

There was a 7.5% increase from 2016 to 2017.

There will be another 6.8% bump this year.

The next 3 years have yet to be determined, but there is the potential for a 16.7% increase by 2020.

"I understand the perception," Hayden said. "The reality of it is that across the country water rates are going up."

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