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San Diego Rolls Out A Digital Water Meter Tester Following News Of Overcharges

The new machine was installed on March 12, and cost the city approximately $4...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS News

Above: The new machine was installed on March 12, and cost the city approximately $400,000 to purchase, April 2, 2018.

People in San Diego who think they are being overcharged for water can now have their meters digitally tested, free of charge.

The city of San Diego installed a new water-meter testing machine last month.

"This here. It’s automated," said Johnny Mitchell, a water systems district manager with San Diego's public utilities department. "You set the information in. The parameters are already there. You push the button and it’s off and running.”

The old system required someone to physically check a dial, whereas this system is computerized.

The new machine is used for a variety of testing, including “controversy tests.” Those are done at a customer's request when they believe their meter might not be working. After the city admitted to overcharging 300 customers last month, demands for controversy tests went up.

RELATED: Utilities Department Announces Over 300 Water Customers Were Overcharged

"The numbers were up in February certainly," said Tom Howard, deputy director for water construction and maintenance with the city's public utilities department.

"But the numbers have seemed to slow down a bit. We still have some on the shelf there to test," Howard said.

Photo credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS News

The city said they still have around 100 "controversy tests" to complete. Those are done at a customers request, when they believe their meter might not be working, April 2, 2018.

This comes as the city is rolling out new smart meters for its approximately 270,000 customers. The meters do not require someone to go out and read them. Instead, they send data back automatically. By 2020, San Diego hopes to have all its customers on smart meters.

RELATED: City Working On New Efforts To Prevent Future Water Bill Overcharges

In the meantime, people who think they are getting overcharged can come to the city's water meter shop and see their's tested.

"So they can have confidence when they leave here that this was a solid test," Howard said. "Right now we’re waiving the, I believe it’s a $66 fee, for doing that. I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be doing that."

When a customer requests a "controversy test," they will get a new smart meter installed whether their old one was working properly or not.

The City of San Diego said they have been looking to buy a new water-meter testing machine since 2014. They spent $400,000 to get one after people complained of high water bills.


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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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