I Hate Living In A One Utility Company Town

70% Water Bill Increase

I seem to be on a roll this week in regards to rants about life. This one is about the fact that Wichita, KS has one electric company, one gas company and one water company, which also happens to be the local city council. Without competition, utility companies can do as they please and charge what they want.

This particular blog is about Wichita Water, run by the City of Wichita. As I went to pay my water bill, which is usually between $62 and $67, I get a shock when I see $111.32. So, naturally, as you do when your bill makes a significant jump upwards, you call the utility company and ask what the hell is going on?

The rep immediately went into “I have a leak in my home”. Yes, our toilets do run from time to time, maybe 2 – 3 seconds, every 15 – 20 minutes. The toilets have done this for years and there has been no frequency increase. I pointed this out to the rep and she said that if not fixed, the leak can get progressively worse, but a 70% increase would be exponentially worse, and I’m damn sure we’d notice.

The other thing that the rep kept repeating is that if I paid to get the [non-existent] leak fixed and send them a copy of the repair invoice, they might partially refund some of the difference. Notice the might in the above sentence; in my head, that means they will find any reason to not credit my account. She wouldn’t even entertain the idea that the meter reader might have gotten the reading wrong.

And I learned something else while talking to the Wichita Water rep. After you use what they, the City of Wichita consider to be average/fair usage amount of water, they charge a premium on the excess over, in this case, 7,320 gallons. And it’s a hefty premium, a 248% increase over the average base charge.

Unfortunately, my options are limited, I cannot switch to another water provider, because Wichita Water has a monopoly. So, my options are, pay the bill, suck it up and hope next month will be lower, or cancel the utility, which is not an option really, we need water and also, because we live in a rental, we need to have utilities connected, believe it or not, not having water connected is a rental lease violation.

UPDATE [Aug, 20 2019, 16:28]: Four months have passed since this outrageous bill and terrible customer service. And guess what, my water bills have returned to the mid 60 dollar range for all four of those months, which would seem to indicate that there was NO LEAK, because we haven’t fixed anything inside our home, and the City of Wichita overbilled us, be it deliberately or through incompetence.

I wish that the City of Wichita could become a big boy city, where multiple companies compete for your business in each utility sector. That way, companies with be forced to up their game and lower prices to retain customers. An example of this is when Cox provided me with overpriced service and piss poor customer service, so I switched to AT&T and ended up with a better package and better, more responsive customer service, I had a problem at 2am, an AT&T engineer was out at my house at 3pm to fix it.

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