FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Water bills wildly fluctuate across Long Island. That’s because there are 48 water commissioners, many of whom send out obscure bills with hidden costs.

That’s according to an alarming new study, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.

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What does your water cost?

It’s an easy question, but on Long Island it has a complicated answer. There are 48 water districts charging widely different amounts.

Just ask residents.

“I called the water company and said, ‘Why is my bill so big?'” one person told McLogan.

“These rate increases are astronomical,” another said.

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Drinking Water

Faucet (credit: CBS2)

“Convoluted, so obscured and so cryptic that the average person is unclear about what water actually costs,” said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

According to a just-released study by the Citizens Campaign, homeowners who water their lawn in one village may pay more than homeowners in the neighboring town.

Some have a flat rate, tiered system based on usage and add capitol costs. Others charge service minimum use annual access fees.

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“Cleverly hidden in residents’ property taxes,” one person said.

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There is a discrepancy between counties. A Long Island family of four using about 10,000 of water per month pays, on average, $500 a year in Nassau County and $347 in Suffolk County. It’s the same water. It comes from the same aquifer.

The cheapest water districts are Greenlawn, Jericho, Riverhead, Sands Point and Freeport.

The most expensive are New York American Water of North Shore, Shelter Island, and New York American Water of the Five Towns, East Williston and Long Beach.

“We’re having a lot of problems with American Water,” one resident said.

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New York American Water, Long Island’s only private water supplier, blames the inequity of the property tax system. It says it is investing in infrastructure. However, watchdog groups are pushing for a public takeover.

“What we’re calling for right now is what’s fair and constitutional. Everyone in Nassau County deserves municipal water — property tax and profit free,” said Dave Dennenberg of LI Clean Air, Water and Soil.

The report says the Public Service Commission must ensure water districts consolidate with a uniform rate structure and incentives to promote conservation.

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Beginning next year, it will be illegal to bill customers for cubic or metric feet of water. Usage must be specified in gallons to make it easier to understand.