Since your water &/or sewer bills are calculated, in part based on consumption, a leak can result in a much higher than normal water bill. Some leaks are easier to find than others, such as a dripping faucet or a running toilet. If you suspect a toilet leak, but do not hear it running, a good way to find out if it has a leak is to place a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait a few minutes. If the water in the bowl turns color, you have a leak and the flapper probably needs replacing.
Other leaks are harder to find, especially if they occur outside or underground. Remember, any leak that occurs between the meter and the home is the home-owners responsibility to repair. Even a small leak can have a significant impact on water loss, which will increase your water and/or sewer bill accordingly. See the chart below for an example.
For the smallest leak on the chart, an inside water and sewer customer would lose 3,600 gallons per billing period (monthly), which at current rates ($4.91 for water and $6.41 for sewer) would equate to $40.74. For an outside city water and sewer customer, this would equate to $61.16.
The following is a diagram of where the homeowner’s responsibility for their system begins:
- The orange pipe – The water mains and communication pipes
- Responsibility of the water company.
- The red pipe – The water supply pipe
- Responsibility of the homeowner from the property boundary or external stop valve, up to and including the internal stop valve.
- The grey cube – External stop valve
- Responsibility of the water company (this is used to isolate the water supply and is typically found at the edge of the property boundary).
Visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/ for more information about leaks.
Watering the Lawn
Watering the lawn is most likely your number one use of water, especially if you have an irrigation system. To help conserve water and expenses, the following tips are suggested:
- Water early in the morning (before 10am) to avoid evaporation
- Mow less frequently in dry weather and mow to heights of 1 ½’-2”
- Leave the clippings
- Use a timer and do not over water.
- Adjust timer for each zone based on sun, shade seasonal temperatures, rainfall, etc.
- Check each Spring for damage and/or leaks from broken/frozen pipes
- Check each month for broken heads or other problems with the system
- Set sprinkler heads to avoid watering driveways, sidewalks and roads
- Check garden hoses for poor connections
- Use a sprayer that can be turned off on all garden hoses
- Use soaker hoses when applicable
- Use a rain barrel to collect rainwater for irrigation/watering plants
For some customers, installing an Irrigation Meter may be the best alternative to lowering their bill. An Irrigation Meter will only measure the volume of water going through the meter for irrigation, therefore, lowering the sewer portion of the bill. However, there are other costs to consider, such as the installation and yearly test of a Testable Backflow Device, the connection of the Irrigation System to the Irrigation Meter, and the additional Water Base Rate charge.
Change in Water Use
A higher than normal bill can also be the result of additional guests, filling a swimming pool and/or seasonal demands. The chart shows how most residential indoor water is used.
Water Conservation Tips
- Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
- Use a dishwasher instead of hand washing dishes
- For cold drinks keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. This way, every drop goes down you and not the drain.
- Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks.
- Turn off all of your faucets and if the small triangular dial on your meter is still turning, this may indicate a leak.
- Water your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
- Upgrade older toilets with water efficient models.
- Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak.
- Know where your master water shut-off valve is located. This could save water and prevent damage to your home. If you do not have one, consider having a licensed plumber install one for you.
- Learn how to shut off your automatic watering system in case it malfunctions or you get an unexpected rain.
- If your toilet flapper doesn't close after flushing, replace it.
- If your toilet was installed before 1992, reduce the amount of water used for each flush by inserting a displacement device in the tank.
- Look for products bearing the EPA WaterSense Label for items that been certified to save 20% or more without sacrificing performance.