Brickbat: A Flood of Money


Running faucet
Aaharewood /

New Orleans resident Laney Stockstill woke to find on her phone an overdraft notice from her bank. The Sewerage & Water Board had attempted to withdraw $31,679 from her account. The agency claimed she'd used 26 million gallons of water the previous month. She's just one of numerous customers who say the agency bills them not only for more water than they used but for amounts of water well above what anyone would reasonably use. The agency blames computer software and a lack of meter readers that force it to use estimates for billing purposes.

NEXT: Fight the Populist Right, the Progressive Left, and the Governments They Control

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Oh, we’re sorry! It appears our computer got you mixed up with another one of our customers. You wouldn’t happen to know a ‘Ms. Katrina’ in your area, would you?”

    1. Now, if you could just properly fill out a 27B/6…

  2. Because 26 million gallons/month is a reasonable estimate….or something…..

    1. “You had cases where meter readers were estimating. And in some cases where what I saw and what some of our reports showed is you had people just walking by a house and just estimating. And in other cases, you had just repeat billing without even looking at an estimate,” Rainwater said.

      They use the same people for parking enforcement.

  3. That process can take months because of a lack of staff to investigate the complaints and address them.

    The S recently hired 20 temporary employees to help and Interim Executive Director Marcie Edwards said Tuesday it’s her goal to hire 10 more by July.

    Luckily so many of her customers are water junkies that she’ll easily be able to meet that payroll.

  4. “The agency blames computer software and a lack of meter readers that force it to use estimates for billing purposes.”

    It’s Skynet’s fault. Dey terk our jerbs.

    1. Endless outsourcing and hiring of the very-very lowest bidders… This mentality that anyone can rub 3 bits and 5 bytes together, and the vast majority of the money should go to the supervising bureaucrats and CEOs… Is behind the shitty software. It was behind the shitty software at Obamacare rollout.

  5. Those god damned computers.

  6. Don’t be a moron and link your bank account to a company or utility.

    They can all send you bills via mail or email for you to pay at YOUR convenience.

    1. Fun fact. When you write a check they digitize it and use that info to autobill you in the future. Utilities suck.

      1. Banks will not let someone double dip on a check that is digitized. Its why there are check numbers at the top. Writing one check does not allow a payee to demand payment over and over on that single check number.

        You can set up direct withdrawal from your checking account but this is an example of why you would be a fool to.

        Let companies and utilities bill you and then pay them per month or if you get a deal pay per year like car insurance.

    2. Bill for $31K, overdraft $17K, means she had $14K in her checking account. Presumably her personal checking, since it’s just an apartment water bill, not a business.

      A. Keep your checking account as low as possible; enough to pay the next couple of weeks bills and for emergency cash. Transfer everything over that to savings or investments.

      B. Limit your overdraft protection if you can, otherwise drop it. Don’t even think of writing a multi-thousand dollar check and letting overdraft protection make up the difference from savings or a credit card; that size check should not be a surprise and you should have plenty of time to transfer the money yourself.

      1. Why would pay for or have overdraft protection?

        You should control who you pay from your checking account. Never allow recurring payments to auto withdrawal. Always go into your online banking and double check all payments.

        Even better. Charge every bill to your credit card, get airline miles or whatever, and then make one monthly payment to the credit card company.

  7. The agency blames computer software

    In just a few more years, the software will be blaming humans, and hilarity will ensue.

    1. That gives us a future to look forward to; life imitating parody. I can hardly wait.

  8. Roomies and I lived in the city of Altanta, going to grad school. German roomie had just got kicked out of the country (long story) and the water bill was still in his name.

    Typical water bill was in the $30-$40 range. Then one day, the bill jumps to $130. I call the utility company to ask what’s up. They ask if we have a toilet that runs – we do, but not continuously. They suggest we get it fixed, and that it’s probably the issue. We call the landlord about the toilet and pay the water bill.

    Next month, the bill is $1250. I immediately take a 2-gallon bucket into the kitchen, time how long it takes to fill up, and calculate that, in order to use as much water as they claim, we would have had to run 4 kitchen faucets continuously for the entire month. I call the water company, and they ask if we have a toilet that’s running. I say ‘not since you told us to have it fixed last month, and by the way we’re being billed for far more water than we could possibly use. I suggest that perhaps when they ran a new water line down our street they may have broken the pipe between our meter and the house. They say to pay only what we would usually owe, and they will send someone out to check it out. We pay $36.

  9. Next month, the bill is $2500. I call again, and the guy on the phone asks if we have a toilet that’s running. I explain and ask what they found out about the possibility of our supply pipe leaking. They inform me that they haven’t sent anyone out because that takes six weeks. Done with them.

    I call the landlord and ask to have a plumber sent out to fix the pipe, document that the damage was caused by the utility company and therefore we should owe nothing. We take the documentation, fill out the appropriate forms, and mail them in.

    Monthly, we get bills for $2500 + our monthly usage. We pay the increment but leave the $2500 outstanding. I call to ask the status of our appeal. They never got it. We send it again. They keep billing us. The time is approaching when we are leaving for a new address. The utility company starts to get nasty. They’re going to turn off our water (I’m thinking that’s sort of an empty threat in Atlanta). They’re going to send us to collections.

    The weekend we move, I call them, offering one last time to settle up with them. They’re not friendly. They say we must pay the full $2500, then wait for our appeal to get our money back. They will send us to collections.

  10. I ask: “WHO are you going to send to collections?”

    She reads off my former roomate’s name (who has been living in Germany since before this whole thing started)

    I let her know that he is living in Germany.

    “Well then who are you?”

    “Not an idiot. Turn off the water here, I’m moving.”

    1. The meters should always be right next to the house. I had a similar experience in OK with gas, where the meter was two lots away. Unfortunately, under OK law, we were responsible for any leaks between the meter and the house. Cost much money.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.