Others are skeptical.
"It's like a billing tsunami," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who has received numerous calls from residents seeking help with water bills.
"At that time, we'll have to evaluate again," he said.
The council voted unanimously this month to ask Rawlings-Blake to prevent homes from going to tax sale over unpaid water bills until the public works department can "demonstrate to the council that a viable and fair system of billing is in place."
City officials contend that the water-billing problem is not quite as big as it has been made out to be.
Kurt L. Kocher, a spokesman for the water and wastewater bureau, says the results of the audit have led many to believe that their bills are incorrect, when the real culprit is an unseen leak, such as a basement toilet running or a damaged underground pipe.
He says the city bends over backward to help people who have experienced leaks in their household water system. When residents show evidence that they have gotten their leaks repaired, such as receipts from plumbers or for plumbing equipment, the department will refund them for high bills accrued when the leak was active, Kocher said.
"We're losing the water and giving the revenue back even when it's not our error," Kocher said.
But getting the refund can be a challenge because the department has been severely understaffed, officials acknowledge.
Currently, just seven people answer calls from water customers concerned about their bills. The workers, sitting in blue cubicles in the municipal building on Holliday Street, busily chatted on headsets on a recent afternoon. Six temporary workers began training last week and nine more are expected to be hired soon, public works officials say.
There's been a shortage of meter readers and inspectors as well, officials note.
Before 2006, 52 people read meters in the city and county. That year, the number of meter readers was slashed to 28. The bureau recently added six more meter readers and is seeking three more, Kocher said.
Meanwhile, the number of inspectors — including those who check meters after billing complaints — had dropped to six last year. The city has now increased the number of inspectors to 28, Kocher said.
The effect of those shortages is evident in the ordeal of Mount Washington residents Tom and Amy Geddes, who worked for months with the city after they received a bill in November for $700, more than three times the usual amount.
The problem only got worse — about $16,000 worse.
When they called the city, they were told that they'd have to wait two months for an inspector. The Geddeses agreed to hire a plumber to check the toilet, a common source of leaks. The city worker they spoke to over the phone said it would be OK to pay just $200, their usual amount.
But when the inspector arrived in January, he concluded that there was still evidence of a leak. So the Geddeses called a plumber once again and spent $3,000 replacing a pipe in the front yard, which was considered the likely culprit.
In January, the Geddeses got another high bill— $660. Amy Geddes went downtown to the water-billing office to seek the discount allowed when a homeowner takes steps to repair a leak. An office worker said the inspector had marked having seen "no evidence of repair" and insisted that the full $660 be paid.
Geddes persisted, providing photos and documentation of the completed work. She was assured everything would be fine, she says.