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St. Augustine neighbors drown in $700 water bills

St. Augustine City Public Works says, "Developer did not install separate irrigation lines." So residents have no choice but to water lawns with drinking water.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla — "You can see, it’s not like I’m over-watering my grass by any means," Donald Workman of Saint Augustine said as he pointed to his lawn that looked less than lush. 

A few months ago, he and his family moved into Verano Creek, a new Saint Augustine neighborhood.

As the warmer months came he said he wallet began to get thinner.

"We started watering the grass to keep the grass alive, and now we’re getting $700 a month water bills," Workman said. 

His bill for May was $727, for one month. 

"There are people in here with $800 to $900 dollars bills."

He called the City of St. Augustine, which supplies water to his neighborhood.

"They told me that because we’re outside the city limits, we pay more money," Workman said. 

He has a plumbing background, and thought that didn’t sound right. So he called First Coast News. We spoke with the city’s Deputy Director of Public Works, Todd Grant. He said the high water bills have nothing to do with this neighborhood being outside city limits.

Grant said the reason for Workman's high water bill is for one simple reason.

"He is watering his lawn with drinking water."

Grant explained, "This particular developer, when they were developing that neighborhood, chose not to install a separate irrigation meter."

Grant said that means there is only one kind of water meter (sewer or domestic) built into this Richmond Homes neighborhood, and essentially that water costs more.

"Most new developers will install a whole separate meter," Grant said. "Only used for irrigation."

He said Richmond Homes did not do that in this neighborhood. 

So what can Workman and his neighbors do to lower their high water bills? 

"They need to make sure the sprinkler heads are efficient as possible. They can entertain installing an irrigation well. Or they can apply to have an irrigation only meter installed from the city."

Grant also told First Coast News, "You can give them my cell phone number. I can walk them through the process."

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