Water customers across the city of San Diego, California, have been complaining that they are being charged by the city for more water than they actually used. These homeowners claim that their water use suddenly skyrocketed in one or more billing periods, leading to hundreds of dollars in higher charges.

The city of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department, which oversees residential water billing, is standing by those bills, saying that they are accurate and that people need to pay them.

Beverly Bradley of Pacific Beach usually pays $50 – $150 every two months, but last May she received a bill for over $400. She says that her bill stated she used more water than she had ever used since moving to her home 25 years ago.

A similar situation ensued for Marilyn Jenkins of Liberty Station who claims to use very little water, saying that she doesn’t even shower in her home.

After calling the Public Utilities Department, both women were told to check their property for water leaks. After further investigation of the homes, experts confirmed that there were none.

Despite an alternative theory that the women were using an older version of water meters that may be inaccurate because they were installed prior to the new smart water meters, the Public Utilities Department said that this had nothing to do with their high water usage reading.

Instead, they suggested a “controversy test,” an alternative in which the city pulls the water meter to test if it’s working properly. If the meter is proven to be broken, the city will credit the water bill. If the meter passes the test, the water customer will owe the balance on their water bill plus an additional $66 charge for the test.

After testing both women’s meters, the city determined that they were in working order, and the women would owe the bills they were originally sent. However, both women did receive credit in return for their inconveniences.

Jerry McCormick, with the city of San Diego’s Communications Department, announced that the city expects to have Advanced Metering Infrastructure--or smart meter technology--installed on all meters by February of 2020.