Around 6,000 local residents were hit with a warning in the mail after their water usage was digitally monitored by city officials.
The city of Forth Worth issued postcards to households in the last week of July that potentially violated the city’s restrictions based on how much water the meters reported.
The city instituted permanent water restrictions in 2014, one of which details certain days homeowners can water their lawns. Residents are supposed to water on alternating days according to the last digit in their house addresses; however, they are never allowed to water on Mondays.
If the city sees that someone has used an excessive amount of water on a Monday, they assume that the residence’s household members were likely not following the restrictions. The postcards act merely as a notice, not as a warning or fine.
However, homeowner David May, who received a postcard after watering newly planted sod daily from May through July, believes “they’re threatening with a fine.” To issue a fine, there would have to be an official warning, and someone would have to witness the water usage rather than infer it from the data.
The data could potentially encourage officials to monitor houses suspected of violating restrictions and issue them a fine if caught disobeying the rules. Fines can be up to $2,000.
A mobile app, MyH2O, now accompanies the water meters, allowing residents to check their water usage, work towards reducing it, detect leaks, and pay their water bills.
In September 2020, when the new digital meters were introduced, residents of Fort Worth noticed much higher water bills. Some blamed the new meters and questioned their accuracy.
A water department spokeswoman insisted that the meters are more accurate, which may have caused an increase in some bills, but added that “the meters are often not to blame.”
Water department spokesperson Mary Gugliuzza told CBS that if water levels reach Stage 1 drought conditions, they will expand the notices and send them to people watering on the wrong days as well.