Residents who were stunned to receive unusually large water bills from the City of Calgary will be relieved of responsibility for the amount they owed,  provided they can prove it was the system that failed them.

In August 2017, a number of City of Calgary water services customers reported water bills that were, in some cases, thousands of dollars higher than average. Now, City officials say the customers will not be on the hook for the entirety of the bills.

According to a report released on Wednesday, the City says it received over 3,400 complaints about unusually large water bills over several years.

Despite that finding, ENMAX, the billing services provider, says high readings are still quite rare, as only about 0.2 percent of its 345,000 customers have received inexplicably large bills.

Customers that CTV Calgary spoke to have had their bills forgiven and the City says the same will be done for everyone else provided they can prove the overage wasn’t caused by intentional watering or a known leak in their system. The charges also need to be extraordinarily high; somewhere in the range of three times higher than normal.

If residents still think that they were charged for water they didn’t use and haven’t been granted a pass by the city, there is an appeal process that they can work through.

Officials say a lack of communication on bills is one of the reasons for the issue.

“Irrigation and toilets tend to be the greatest issues for a high bill. So it’s really around doing a better job about not kind of talking about a typical but sharing with our customers what the range can be around how significant a leak can be,” said Shannon Abbot, water service manager.

Independent reviews, conducted in the wake of the issues in August, determined ENMAX’s processes regarding water meter readings, high consumption detection and billing are accurate and there were no instances where a single meter was responsible for an unreasonable bill.

Officials say the program will cost the city about $1.5M.

The city says it is also discussing the possibility of creating a bill assistance program to help people who are in financial need and cannot afford their regular bill.

(With files from Jordan Kanygin)