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Ottawa homeowner slammed with $1,400 water bill
Published Thursday, September 1, 2016 9:15AM EDT
When Emily Hashem, 28, bought her first house in the brand new Findlay Creek neighbourhood of Ottawa South, she was excited. She was one of the first homeowners to move in and one of the first to get new sod for her lawn. Three months later, Hashem’s excitement was dampened by her first city water bill.
“I just took a picture (of the bill), sent it to my family and said ‘Oh my God,’” she told CTV Ottawa.
Hashem was billed $1,400 for three months of water usage. She said she had expected her bill to be high after the summer, but more in the neighbourhood of $600 or $700.
“When I opened the bill, I nearly had a heart attack,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Hashem said landscapers had recommended that she water her new grass for 24 hours a day at the beginning. So she turned on her sprinkler for nearly three days straight and kept it on overnight for another five days.
“I did what I was told,” she said. “I may have been naïve about it, but I’m young. It’s my first house.”
The city even called Hashem with an automated warning to alert her of her high water consumption and the possibility of a leak. She said she slowed down her watering after the city’s notice, but by that time it was too late.
Her neighbour across the street, Mustafa Al Rubai, said his family was billed $725. He said they agreed to pay the bill but have barely watered their lawn since.
After a long, hot and dry summer, more homeowners like Hashem and Al Rubai are paying higher rates for their water than they’ve had to in the past. The city has been profiting from the increased water usage; in fact, they have seen a $5 million surplus this year. They haven’t seen a surplus this high in years.
Ottawa city Treasurer Marian Simulik told CTV Ottawa in a statement that the city doesn’t adjust their rates to reflect changes in the weather.
“The city does not refund customers in years of surplus, nor does it charge extra to recover costs in years when there is a deficit…customers are encouraged to contact the revenue branch to discuss their water bill.”
Hashem and Rabai both contacted the revenue branch but they said they received the same answer.
“My bill is my bill…$1,400 of water,” Hashem said. “The grass isn’t even that green. There are yellow spots everywhere.”