Mesa woman disputes a $12,000 water bill

Posted: Updated:

MESA - “I couldn't believe it,” Mary Habeeb said. “I was shocked. It was just unbelievable.”

If the water used to irrigate Mary Habeeb's orange groves came from the city, then she says she could understand a $12,000 water bill.

“They're completely separate lines,” she explained. “There's no connection whatsoever to them.”

If she had a house full of people to clean up after, a yard full of grass or a house full of plants, then a high water bill would be a given.

Without any of these, Mary can't understand how the city of Mesa could charge her for nearly 3 million gallons of water.

“Six thousand gallons. Maybe 16,000 gallons,” she said. “But not 2.78 million.”

Two-point-seven-eight million gallons is enough to fill up a 15,000 gallon swimming pool 186 times. It's enough to take a 10-minute shower every day for the next 46 years.

“It would've spewed 1 gallon a second,” she said.

For Mary, the trouble started in September when a meter reader for the City of Mesa noticed a leak in her water line.

“So there was water spewing from this location,” Mary explained as she showed us the meter.

She also showed us the gasket she had to replace. But even with the leak, Mary insists there is no way nearly 3 million gallons of water on the ground would've gone unnoticed.

“I just don't believe it,” she said. “I don't believe it makes any sense.”

“Obviously, it’s a concern when somebody is faced with a water bill this large,” Ian Satter with the City of Mesa said.

We asked the city of Mesa what's up with the water bill? Ian Satter showed us several pictures he says proves that much water could have leaked out without anyone noticing.

“A 12,000 bill is shocking,” Jodi Jerich, director of the Arizona Residential Utility Consumer Office said.

Mary's bill is one of the highest she's ever seen, but because she has a meter twice the average size, she says it could happen.

Jerich says consumers, like Mary, who want to fight their utility bill (water or electric) should begin by disputing it with the city.

“If that doesn't resolve the problem you can contact your city council and if that doesn't resolve the matter you can go to court,” Jerich explained.

Mary is in the process of appealing. She feels besides a big bill, the only thing she's getting from the city is hosed.

The city of Mesa says it has reviewed Mary's complaint several times, and is trying to work with her.

It’s offered to reduce Mary's bill from $12,000 to $7,400, and put her on a payment plan, but so far the city says those offers have been refused.