SAN ANTONIO -- An elderly woman is blindsided when her water bill jumps 1,700%. Now she and the San Antonio Water System are trying to figure how 120,444 gallons of water disappeared into thin air.
Mary Casias’ water bill for August tallied $1,004.97, up from just more than $60 the month before, the 78-year-old said she was beside herself the moment she saw it.
"Hysterics,” said Casias. “It just blew my mind."
Casias had a plumber check out her home after the bill arrived, who found some leaking from the toilet but nothing else. She said he didn’t think that leak could account for more than 120,000 gallons of lost water, the equivalent of six above-ground swimming pools.
According to SAWS records, Casias had seen leaks, or at least above average water use, on several occasions in the past year, including three months of 20-30,000 gallon usage. Her use normally doesn’t go above 4,000 gallons.
Casias said she began to suspect the meter.
“The little red arrow was going round and round and round,” said Casias. “There was no water running anywhere."
Anne Hayden, a spokeswoman for SAWS, said the meter can be ruled out as a likely cause. That’s because meters are constructed so that, when they are faulty, they underestimate water usage rather than overestimating.
Hayden said toilets can cause that kind of water loss, although a number of independent plumbers told Eyewitness News that isn’t possible.
But she said there are other causes.
"There is a situation that does happen where there's water theft, where sometimes if someone isn’t getting service they start tapping into someone else’s water,” said Hayden. “It is something we see. When you have more than 600,000 accounts, you see a lot of stuff.”
Hayden said that’s a very unlikely scenario, but one worth investigating.
For now, SAWS is sending a specialist to inspect the meter and will explore making adjustments to Casias’ bill.
Casias said she has no intention of paying the full amount until they figure out what happened to that water.
"There's no way I could have used that much water,” said Casias.
(© 2016 KENS)