Houston family receives $21,000 water bill, family afraid to use water in own home

What would you consider a high water bill? $500? $1,000? One Houston family just received a more than $21,000 water bill.

There are a lot of things that cost $21,000, a water bill for a 3-bedroom home shouldn't be one of them.

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"Look at this. That's $21,212.09, which is very shocking," Elizabeth Ruiz points out at their dining table, showing me the water bill they received yesterday. 

Sitting at the family table is where a lot of people map out exactly how they plan to pay the month's bills. But the Ruiz's say they can sit here another year, and won't figure out why they received a more than $21,000 water bill, or how in the world they'd ever pay it. 

"No. We don't have the money to pay. It's too much," says 79-year-old Jose Ruiz.   

"It's an insane amount of money that just doesn't make sense," Elizabeth Ruiz adds.   

In fact, Elizabeth Ruiz says at her elderly parents' North Houston home, the City Of Houston just replaced their meter last Monday, because she says for a year and a half, they have received huge water bills, ranging from $500 to more than $1,300. 

"It's just so high every month. We're just not understanding how these numbers are coming about. We've been here 30 years. I want to say a normal water bill would be $180," the concerned daughter explained. She says the City of Houston has repeatedly told them the city will investigate their disputed bills, but then the family is placed on payment plans. 

"It's like there's no resolution. We're still trying to catch up from the previous bill. I feel like they're trying to take advantage of my parents," Elizabeth Ruiz adds.  

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The family says they're now afraid to turn on the water in their own home, even cutting bathing short. They say they feel like they're drowning in what they consider incorrect water bills and forced to pay, so their water isn't shut off.  

"My dad, all he talks about is the water bill. That's all he talks about. He feels so stressed out about it. I know a lot of people in Houston are going through this, and I don't think the water department is taking it seriously. I feel like they really are not caring about their customers," says Elizabeth.  

A spokesperson for the City of Houston Public Works Department says they're not allowed to give information about a specific account, but says if anyone believes their water bill is incorrect, contact customer service and they'll investigate.

That's what Elizabeth Ruiz says her family was told once again. She says in the meantime, they still have to make payments toward the $21,000 water bill, so their water won't get shut off.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire is expected to announce his plan to fix this issue of Houstonians receiving sky-high water bills, possibly this week.