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1 million gallons of water

Atlanta Watershed Management installed a standalone water meter at the problem plot of land on Oct. 4, 2022. At the time, the plot was just dirt; Raw hadn’t even started laying the foundation for the home he would eventually build.

A month after the water meter was installed, Revive Construction was billed $8,899 for allegedly using 305,184 gallons of water.

To put that into context, the Environmental Protection Agency says the average U.S. household uses around 300 gallons of water per day, which equates to 9,000 gallons per month — a cool 296,184 gallons shy of what Revive Construction supposedly consumed on an empty lot.

The mega bills poured in for five months, reaching a shocking total of $29,669.43 for the use of more than a million gallons of water, which Raw, of course, appealed.

The Atlanta Watershed Management appeals Board said the water was either used, lost (via a leak) or stolen. Raw, who described the appeals board as “a kangaroo court,” said it seemed like they were probing the possibility that he stole the water.

At one point in the saga, the utility company conceded there was a water leak and it corrected Revive Construction’s outstanding balance to a far more reasonable $219.29. But it quickly reversed that decision — deeming it a mistake — and reinstated the construction company’s $30,000 bill. Raw appealed that u-turn and lost, despite a senior employee at the utility company siding with him.

“I feel like it's extortion,” said Raw, who is not alone in losing his fight. Over an 18-month period, the Fox I-Team found that 80% of people who disputed their water bills with Atlanta Watershed Management lost their appeals.

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What to do if you get a weird water bill

If you receive an unusually high water bill, don’t just throw your money down the drain — there are ways to verify your water usage and challenge any discrepancies.

First, it’s important to check your water meter to ensure it matches what is shown on your bill. If it doesn’t, then you can use that as evidence to help you seek a refund or a credit on future water bills.

But if the number on your bill is accurate, the next most important step is to check your home for leaks. You can do this by turning off all the water sources in your home and then checking your water meter. If the dial is still moving, then you may have a leak somewhere — one of the most common culprits being the toilet.

Remember, if you suspect you may have a leak, it is important to act as soon as possible to prevent costly water damage and a home insurance claim. That would result in more financial pain on top of your large water bill.

Consider getting help from a plumber to confirm whether or not you have a leak and make any necessary repairs. Throughout this process, make sure you keep strong documentation — for instance, a plumber’s report — which you can use to support your application for an adjustment to your bill.

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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