8 On Your Side

Hidden charges on your water bill? Here's something you need to know

Ed Marchese's water bill contained a little gem.

A $35.15 monthly base charge. 

Ed and his wife Denise live just outside of Lakeland's city limits, but they purchase their water from Lakeland's Department of Water Utilities.

Ed's neighbor pays only $13.13 for that monthly base charge.

"It just seems very unfair," Ed said.

Why the difference?

"When this house was originally built in 1974, the homeowner at the time, and from what our records indicate, requested a one inch meter because he had such an expansive irrigation system," city of Lakeland spokesman Kevin Cook explained.

A 1 inch meter pumps about three times as much water as a standard residential 3/4 inch meter.

Ed points out he doesn't use the irrigation system.

"They told me that you're paying for an opportunity, a benefit, an opportunity to be able to draw more volume of water than you could with a 3/4 inch meter," Ed added. 

For years, Ed had no idea why is bill was as high, if not higher, than his neighbor who has a house full of children.

"It's on his bill," explained Cook.

Not exactly. The bill only states the $35 is a monthly base charge.

"I mean it should say, 1 inch meter surcharge," plumber and chairman of the Central Florida Plumbing Academy Joe Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez points out there is no added service that a 1 inch meter provides a customer other than the ability to pump water faster. 

He believes this is all about money.

Lakeland's Department of Water Utilities claims 2,452 residential customers have 1 inch meters. 

Fees on those brought in $1.6 million this year.

According to their websites, customers in Manatee and Pasco counties also pay graduated meter charges.

"It's up to the homeowner to tell us, 'hey we're not using this irrigation system, can we change something out?'" Cook explained.

Ed points out, if you don't know, how can you ask?

"I don't think you would ask, nobody would ask," Gonzalez added.

Ed paid more than $300 for Lakeland's Department of Water Utilities to replace the 1 inch meter with the standard 3/4 inch.

He claims the first water bill he received after the switch was less than half what he paid previously.

If he had known about the 1 inch meter when he moved in, Ed says he would have switched it immediately.

"It would have been a no brainer," he said. "Why pay an extra thousand dollars for a benefit to enjoy drawing that much more water when we don't need it?"

The moral of the story? Check your water bill, understand what you are being charged for.

Ask questions about anything you don't understand.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.


More Stories

Don't Miss

Latest News - Local

Video Center