Houston Public Works Press Release

City of Houston Approves Sweeping Ordinance Changes to Address High Water Bills

December 13, 2023

HOUSTON - Following months of public input and careful review by Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Public Works (HPW) and the City of Houston's Legal Department, City Council today approved historic changes to assist customers with unusually high water bills.

"Today's action removes the structural hurdles that prevented Houston Public Works from adjusting unusually high water bills. Because we have improved the ordinances, the department can be more responsive in the future," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "We do not want to assess people for what they are not using; people should only pay for the water they use at home or business. By making the changes, we also are improving the appeal process for customers and giving employees more flexibility. The changes are meaningful, and we are taking a holistic approach to address concerns raised by our water customers."

“Houston Public Works is committed to providing accurate water bills for the more than 500,000 City of Houston water customers every month. We are pleased to move forward with changes that will bring relief to the most vulnerable Houstonians, including our senior citizens,” said Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock.

The following changes are effective immediately.

  • 1.    47-74 – Ordinance a customer can apply for a maximum of two leak adjustments per year. Remove the two times per year allowance and allow customers additional relief should multiple leaks occur in one year more than twice.

  • 2.    47-74 – Allows customers adjustment to their water bills at a 50% rate once proof of a leak repair is provided. Incentivize Citizens -100% for customers repairing 30 days after the leak began, 75% for repairing within 60 days after the leak began and standard 50% after 60 days.

  • 3.    47-74 – Customers get 50% credit on excess water usage on both water and wastewater charges. 100% credit on excess wastewater charges. This is based on the idea that a customer water leak usually doesn’t go back through the sewage system.

  • 4.    47-74-1 – Leak Balance Remaining must be greater than $2,000.00 and $250 for elderly customers who meet the eligibility criteria in section 36-62 (1) of this Code. Reduce the leak balance remaining amount from $2,000.00 to $1,000.00 and $250.00 to $100.00 for eligibility qualifiers.

  • 5.    47-75 – Qualified account for ULB adjustment can only be adjusted down to 150% of average water use. Lower customer adjustment amount from 150% to 125% of the monthly average water usage.

  • 6.    47-75-1 an ECA adjustment 

  • 6.    a. any billed amount in the excess of five times the average monthly bill 

  • 6.    b. account may be reduced by up to $4,000.00 for one occurrence. 

  • 6.    c. does not exceed a two-month timeframe.

Changes to this section as follows:
a. any billed amount in excess of two times (2x) the average monthly bill
b. account may be reduced by up to $10,000.00 for one occurrence.
c. does not exceed two billing cycles. 

  • 7.    47-61,47-63 - Customers are charged a minimum monthly base fee where a water meter is present because the City must reserve that capacity for the customer. The base charge includes water and wastewater. To avoid charges, a customer is required to pay for a private plumber to remove the meter, cap the line, and then cancel the account (cost approximately $1500). Offer the customer an option to have the meter locked for a one-time fee estimated to be $150, and once the customer account is charged for lock, all base charges will be removed from the account. This change provides a less expensive option for the customer to remove monthly base charges.

  • 8.    Benefits of signing up for e-bill. Provide and promote a $.50 discount for each bill for paperless customers.

  • 9.    Long-term estimations have resulted in high catch-up bills of up to 24 months. Codify Houston Public Works' current practice by not back billing for more than 3 months for residential customers.

Houston Public Works (www.HoustonPublicWorks.org) is the largest and most diverse public works organization in the country, responsible for creating a strong foundation for Houston to thrive. Houston Public Works is responsible for streets and drainage, production and distribution of water, collection, and treatment of wastewater, and permitting and regulation of public and private construction covering a 671-square mile service area. Houston Public Works is accredited by the American Public Works Association.
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Media Contact

  • Katelynn Burns
  • Office of the Director - Communications
  • 611 Walker St., Houston TX 77002
  • 832.395.2455
  • [email protected]
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Media Contact

  • Erin Jones
  • Office of the Director - Communications
  • 611 Walker St., Houston TX 77002
  • 713.853.6073
  • [email protected]
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