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Crowley Family Baffled By Extremely High Water Bill

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CROWLEY (CBSDFW.COM) - A Crowley family is left baffled by an $842 water and sewer bill.

"That's about the price we pay for mortgage; that's insane!" said homeowner Taj White.

To say the grass is greener on the other side is an accurate statement when it comes to describing Mrs. White's lawn. She admits they don't have a green thumb nor time to spend on upkeep. In fact, she adds, their sprinkler system has been unplugged for years.

"We have a lot of brown spots on ours," Mrs. White said, comparing it to her neighbor's much more lush lawn. Her neighbor's last water and sewer bill was just under $145.

According to their meter, the White family's usage for August was 129,000 gallons of water. That's enough to fill more than four 30,000 gallon pools. That's more water than the average family uses in a year.

White and her family had been away for a few days in that billing cycle. She says a customer service operator at Crowley Water Department explained there was a possibility others could be using her water, without the family's knowledge.

"We live around good people. There's no way [they] would use our water," she explained.

"I need you to explain to me how does this happen .... How does a person end up with an $800 bill in one month and no lifestyle changes?" White said she asked the woman over the phone.

"All, I can say is sometimes bad things happen to good people. I've seen this happen before," White said the woman responded.

The Crowley Water Department found no leaks at the home. It tested the meter and determined it was operating normally.

Customers in several North Texas cities have complained about spikes in their water and sewer bills.

In January, Crowley increased water and sewer rates to offset the increases from Fort Worth, where the city buys its water.

City Manager Robert Loftin said because of the wet spring we saw, many customers may not have noticed any dramatic changes to their utility bills until June, July, and August.

He adds that most customers compare bills month to month, but a more precise comparison would be to match July of 2014 to July 2015 and August 2014 to August 2015; this gives a more accurate result of gallons used for the month.

The spike this family saw appears to be an anomaly.

"After a lengthy discussion with the customer, we cannot definitively determine where the water was used or where it went.  We can only speculate as to the various possibilities, however that will not resolve what occurred," he explained in a statement.

Loftin said a broken toilet flapper, and people using our water without our knowledge are examples of issues that could account for spikes in water usage.

The City Manager has been working closely with the family. He looked at their individual case and usage history and has helped cut their bill by half.

Additionally, even though the meter was found to be working properly, the Water Department will replace it with a newer meter which will allow it to track the family's usage by the hour.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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