Couple frustrated by excessively high SAWS water bill after leak

The leak caused a million gallons of water to flow through the cracked pipe.

SAN ANTONIO – Picture this, you open up your San Antonio Water System bill, and it’s thousands of dollars more than you expect it to be.

That’s what happened to one couple who had a simple leak turn into a nightmare.

“This is a suppression system for the sprinklers in the interior, in case there’s a fire or smoke,” Todd Cop said.

It’s such a common issue that can happen anywhere and frequently does.

“We had a break, ground movement. It happens all over San Antonio,” Cop said showing us the pipe in the ground outside of the duplex he owns on the city’s Northeast side.

In December, SAWS notified him there was a leak in the pipe, and he had a plumber out to fix things the same day.

“How long did that repair take to make?” reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“Oh, maybe an hour. The dig was longer,” Cop said.

Cop thought the problem was behind him until a new bill showed up in his mailbox.

“We get a bill in the mail for a million gallons of water, $15,580,” Cop said. “We’re about five or 600 bucks a month on water usage. That’s our typical bill. We’ve had these about four years now.”

Looking at the November to December bill, the amount due shot up nearly 25 times from one month to the next.

SAWS water bills (KSAT 12 News)
Todd Cop November water bill (KSAT 12 News)
Todd Cop December water bill (KSAT 12 News)
Million gallons usage (KSAT 12 News)

“It’s a huge burden on us. And SAWS is profiting from that, you know, not only with the fix it repair, you know, but they’re charging late fees,” Cop said.

For the past eight months, Cop has been asking SAWS for help or guidance on what to do with minimal response back.

“We just keep paying more than our average bill every month and hoping to get it resolved,” he said.

Then, the other shoe dropped when they received a final notice.

SAWS final notice (KSAT 12 News)

“It just says final notice, and we don’t know the date. We also got a phone call on it as well. Your final notice, shutting the water off,” Cop said.

We took the issue to SAWS and were told via email the circumstances of this are unique, and they’re analyzing the charges and reclassifying several months of rate.

The representative went on to write “We are putting a hold on the account to protect it from interruption.”

When we passed this information along to Cop, it was the first he had heard of it.

“It’s something you go to sleep with, you wake up with, you know, we’re all worried about it, and we want it to be resolved,” Cop said.

We asked SAWS what customers should do if this happens to them, and they passed along the following information.

If customers experience uncharacteristically high bill amounts, they should follow the tips provided here. If a leak is identified, they can call us at (210) 704-7297 or contact us at SAWS will work with the customer on a case-by-case basis on addressing bills associated with leaks.

Below are a couple of helpful links:

Additionally, as ConnectH2O meters are installed (over 65,000 have been installed across town so far), customers will be able to analyze water use down to the hour. While SAWS still won’t be able to tell you exactly where the water is going, we will be able to give a better idea of when. Plus, if you provide us with email and text information, we will notify you of a continuous leak occurring potentially avoiding property damage and a high water bill.

Cop is still waiting to be contacted by SAWS to get his $15,000 bill sorted out.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.