Utility Watchdog in San Diego



Water is a basic necessity of life. In California water and sewage services are generally provided by municipal water districts. In San Diego County, water services are provided by 24 different municipal water authorities, the largest of which being the San Diego Public Utilities Department. A map of water agencies can be found here.

UCAN advocates on behalf of utility rate payers and works to educate ratepayers and ensure the equitable, safe, reliable, cost-effective distribution of services. Some of the things we are currently working on are

If you have questions about your water bill, charges, or what UCAN is doing to help you please give us a call at (619) 696-6966. We are here to help!





UCAN Asks San Diego City Council Members to Establish a Voluntarily Funded Low Income Ratepayer Assistance Program.

San Diego is the 8th largest city in the US and unlike many smaller and less affluent cities, San Diego offers no help for low income water customers. UCAN asked the City Council’s Environment Committee to consider one. The Committee asked the Public Utilities Department to study this issue and return in September/October. Click here to view UCAN's PowerPoint presentation to the City Council.

UCAN Water Meter Project

UCAN is asking our members and supporters to help us gather information on water meter reading practices of local water agencies. Specifically, UCAN wants to know if customers are being billed for the water they are using, or if a local water agency is estimating water use and not reading their customers’ meters. To gather this information we are asking for volunteers to complete our Water Meter Survey.

This survey involves a few simple steps, as outlined below:

Step #1: When you get your water bill, notice the listed “current meter reading” and the last date of the billing period.


Step #2: On the same day that you get your water bill read and record the water meter outside your home.

Most water meters in San Diego County only have one dial, however, some have multiple dials. The reading that you need to take is found on the dial with the words “CUBIC FEET” on the face. There will be a counter directly underneath those words. This number is the reading which you are to record.

The number on the right would be recorded as “817.10”

Step #3: Read and record you water meter for a second time 60 days after your billing period ended. For example, if your billing period ended on October 17, you would read your meter for a second time on December 16.

Step #4: Upon receiving your next water bill, review your bill and notice your “current meter reading” and the last date of the billing period. You should receive this bill approximately one to two weeks after your second meter reading in step #3.

Step #5: Return your UCAN Water Meter Survey worksheet to UCAN.

We feel that this project is very important for protecting utility ratepayers in our community. If you have any questions or would like more information about this project please feel free to call us at (619) 696-6966 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you would like to participate please download our Water Meter Survey Worksheet. To keep up to date on future developments and other UCAN projects sign up for our free newsletter.

UCAN presents Low-Income Assistance program idea to City Council Environment Committee

San Diego is the country’s eighth largest city with very high rates for water services. Unfortunately for many San Diegans, the city does not currently have any program or funding available to help low-income residents pay for water services.

UCAN has heard from people with difficult financial situations who are struggling to afford basic water services. Often these people call because they are behind on their water bills and at risk of having their water shut-off. Once the water is shut-off, not only do people struggle to pay the past due amounts, but they then have to pay an additional reconnect fee and deposit.

In early 2014, UCAN began discussing the issue of how to help people avoid water shut-offs with officials of the City’s Public Utilities Department and individually with members of the San Diego City Council. While City officials were sympathetic to the idea of trying to provide assistance, concerns remained regarding the legal constraints on funding such a program.

In July, UCAN made a proposal which addressed those legal constraints to the City Council’s Environment Committee. UCAN suggested that San Diego establish a voluntarily funded Low-Income Ratepayer Assistance (LIRA) program. UCAN also mentioned that two local nonprofits (Campesinos Unidos [CUI] and MAAC project) that already provide assistance to low income SDG&E customers, and which have the standards and procedures in place with trained personnel to efficiently operate such a program wanted to help..

In October, UCAN met at Mayor Faulconer’s office with his Director of Water Policy, representatives of the Public Utilities Department and the City Attorney’s office, and with the Executive Director and the Manager of Campesinos Unidos’ San Diego office and MAAC project’s Director of Healthy Homes & Health Services. In November, the Public Utility Department provided a progress update to the City Council’s Environment Committee, and the Committee directed them to further study how to most effectively implement and administer this program. UCAN is continuing to track these developments in the hope that the City will establish this program and have it up and running sometime during this next year.

Steps to take if your bill is outrageously high

If you received your water bill and the number strays significantly from your normal usage there could be a couple of things going on (and a couple ways to get out of it!):

They didn’t bill you for the correct amount of water used

There is a leak on your property, or there is a leak from their meter.

Step 1

Check your meter. To find out which issue it is, start by checking the meter yourself. If the meter reads don’t match up, stop, call the water department and point out their error. If it does match, move on to the next steps.

Step 2

Collect your bills. Put together a collection of your last several bills including the one that shocked you into reading this article. If you don’t have past bills, don’t panic; just ask the water department to send you a history.

Step 3

Check for leaks around the meter. When you are checking your meter look to see if there was water on or around the meter. If your meter box is flooded, stop, call the water department and point out the problem. You are not responsible for the pipe leading to the meter! If the meter is broken and leaking e-mail  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 619-515-3525. If the meter is broken and not working the meter reader will make note of it and get it changed. If it meter box looks good, go on to the next steps.

Step 4

Check for leaks around the property. To do this, turn off all the water in your home. I mean everything! Sink, shower, dishwasher, washing machine, irrigation, etc. Check for visual signs of leaks. Then go out to the box. If you see movement it is likely that you have an underground or slow leak on your property. And, I hate to say it but, call a plumber. The sooner you pay the money for a plumber to find and fix the leak the sooner your water bill will go back down. There are situations in which you can get a bill adjustment even if the leak is on your property.

Step 5

If applicable, apply for a bill adjustment or deferral. You may apply if…

There is an irrigation leak and your sewer service charge is based on water use; or

There is a concealed pipe leak that is not readily detectible. But call the plumber and get this type of leak fixed right away because they will not adjust until you get it fixed.

To defer, your bill must be at least 200% more than your normal usage and must pay your normal amount by the due date. You will only be allowed to defer once in the life of the account and the amount will be split evenly for up to 12 months.

To apply for an adjustment or deferral, just call the water department at (619) 515-3500.

Step 6

If your reads are correct, if there are no leaks at the meter and no leaks on your property, it may be the meter itself.  If you believe the meter is malfunctioning, you can request a meter controversy test.  A meter controversy test costs $66 or $99 depending on your meter size (single family residential is $66).  The City will return the $66 to you if they discover that the meter was malfunctioning, or they will keep if they determine it is functioning correctly.  This can be done by calling the water department at (619) 515-3500 and or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you have any questions on what you can do about your high water bill feel free to call us at (619) 696-6966.