City strives to stem illegal water usage

February 26, 2014 • Local News

The Roswell city water department has begun filing police reports on illegal water hookups, to provide better documentation for the city.

“There are not more cases of illegal hookups than in the past, we have just started taking the extra step of filing a police report,” utility billing supervisor Sylvia Casarez said on Wednesday.

“I started filing the police report in case we have to take the disconnection to the next level and have the water shut off at the water main.”

Casarez said city employees check every water meter each month, whether or not there is someone living in that property.

“If we find an illegal connection, we will shut it off and [auth] pull the meter,” she said. Sometimes, the city also installs a plug to prevent further water connections.

“Often times, the illegal connections are at properties that are supposed to be empty,” Casarez said. “Sometimes, there are people living in houses that are abandoned, and sometimes it is renters who hook up water without coming through the city.”

When the city employees find an illegal connection, they shut it down, and Casarez attempts to find the owner to inform them that the property has been using water illegally.

“Ultimately, it is the property owner’s responsibility,” Casarez said. “If the situation is not fixed, then the city can cut off the water at the main, and it will cost the property owner thousands of dollars to reconnect.”

Casarez said she knew of only one case where the city had to disconnect the water at the main during her two years with the water department.

“Finding the owner of a property can be difficult, and we want to have as much documentation as possible that we have tried to remedy the situation.”

The meter readers also leave a note on the property’s door when a police report is filed so the owner or the resident will know that the illegal connection has been noted and disconnected.

“Not only the city, but the whole community is a victim when water is stolen,” Casarez said.

“A lot of times, we will get calls from people who say they know a house should be empty, but there are people living in there,” Casarez said. “Often, the property owner may not even know that there are people in the house, especially if the owner lives out of state.”

“Our officers go out to enforce the law,” said Sabrina Morales, public information liaison for the Roswell Police Department.

“No matter what the law is, we are there to enforce it. There are no little laws. Our officers have to enforce all of them.”

To report an illegal water connection, residents may call 624-6711.

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