water/sewer bill

sid_79March 1, 2006

I closed on a house on January 10th

I spent at least a week just painting, wasn't fully moved in for over a week. Just my wife and I, no kids.

I just got my first bill for water and sewer, and they say that between 1/10/06 and 2/13/06 I used 1600 cubic feet. That seems totally outragous to me. The water department's website says they bill quarterly but reserve the right to bill monthly.

We do a couple of loads of laundry a week with a front loading washer (25 gallons per load), and we were running the dishwasher 2 or 3 times a week. We both took showers that were approximately 10 minutes (+/- 5 minutes any given day). We did have our carpets professionally cleaned (truck mounted equipment connected to our outside faucet), but that only took an hour.

Now the last meter read on the bill was about 2.5 weeks ago. I just wrote down the number currently on the meter and according to the number on the bill I've used over 1000 cf in that time frame. Again this is just two people and I've even been gone several days in that time frame. i plan on writing down the number daily for a little while.

My neighboring city's water district website says the average household in that city uses 2000cf per quarter. There is no way my wife and I are that wasteful when compared to the average household.

Did the city make a mistake?

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1600 cubic feet of water is 11969 gallons. Have you got a leak? Neighbor tapped in to your system? See if the meter is moving with everything shut off.

By comparison in Dec we get billed 400 CF = 2992 gallons.
In August w/garden & lawn & swamp cooler [temps to 110 daily] it goes to about 6000 CF = 44833 gallons. The Swamp cooler can absorb 10-12 gallons/hour, might run 10 hours per day.

I think the 400 CF is a minimum charge.

Since 2000 I have tracked the utilities on a spreadsheet. They are remarkedly consistent for a given month in any year.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 11:37PM
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I don't think I have a leak anywhere

i wrote down the number last night, and then again this morning just before I left for work. It had changed by about 10 cubic feet

I think tonight I will check the number right before I go to bed, after the wife and I have already brushed out teeth, etc and then check again first thing in the morning.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 7:24AM
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if 1600cf is 11969 gallons, then you 10 cf is 70 gallons overnight. assuming 2 showers at 10 mins each, that is about 50 gallons right there using 2.5 gallon low flow heads. the other 20 gallons could easily be accounted for just by varying the time in the shower, flushing the commode a few times, and running the sink while brushing.

11969 gallons in a month is high for 2 people though, we used 10900 gallons for a family of 4, and i had a toilet that kept running and a leaky kitchen faucet for most of the month.

as was stated earlier, turn off ALL fixtures in the house and go check the meter. the best way to do this is to turn them all off before leaving for work, write down the meter reading, then check it again when you get home. if it moved, you have a leak.

first thing to check for would be a leaky faucet. next thing is to put some food coloring in the tank of the toilet and let it sit for a few hours. if the water in the bowl turns color, then you have a leak there. a couple bucks a the local box store will get you a new flapper, but inspect everything as it may be time to just replace the whole assembly.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 10:10AM
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I talked to the water department and they are going to send someone over to check the meter and check for leaks. The person on the other end of the phone also thought is seemed high for two people.

I talked to a co-worker (he lives in the same city). His bill for this last quarter was less than my bill for the month (I bought the house about a month before the scheduled meter read, so I got a bill for a month and he got the usual 3-month bill). Both of us don't have any kids, so I wouldn't think I would use over 3 times as much water as him.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 10:50AM
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According to the guidelines for municipal water suppliers, the maximum quantity considered reasonable for a home is 50-55 gallons per day per person. Generally the average household uses about 300 GPD. In your case, it's likely to be lower, and if you have low flow and energy saving features, it's considerably less.

1 cubic foot of water is 7.48 gallons. So your average consumption should be around 13.5 CF/day. Figuring the 10 CF/day, you're about right. 2000 CF/quarter is not correct...maybe it was 20,000 CF?

Does your bill reflect water AND sewer usage? If the cost of the bill is high this may not be so much due to quantity but price per unit. Where I live our water is billed seperately from our sewer. I know for a fact that our intake (water) is greater than our output (sewer), but our sewer bill is 3x greater than our water bill. This is due to surcharges and rate per CF ratio. It's ridiculous!

But I think your usuage is on par with most households.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 4:10PM
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My usage is *not* on par with most households my size. As I said, I talked to other people in my city and the other households my size (2 adults) used less water in a *quarter* than I did in a *single month* since I bought the house, and I wasn't even living in the house the entire month.

Yesterday our meter went up by over 100 CF. Two showers, no laundry and didn't run the dishwasher.

Yes it is a combined sewer/water bill, but at $200 it seems a little steep for one month considering my co-workers bill of $140 combined was for THREE months. We both live in the same neighborhood and we both don't have any kids. If you assume my bill will be about the same each month, I'm looking at a $600 bill next quarter vs his $140 bill. I'm not that wasteful.

And about the 2,000CF: It's right on thir website ("The average household in the water district uses 2000 cubic feet per quarter"). We don't need to water lawns here so that makes a little difference, and the average household size is fairly small.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 8:09AM
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also, someone happend to go to my wife's place of employment yesterday to read their meter and she talked to him.

He said that there ether has to be a major leak or the meter has to be dammaged because there is no way we should have used that much water. He was pretty sure of this when she told him the meter now read well over 1000 cubic feet more than what was on the bill for their meter read two weeks ago. He said that was almost impossible for just two people unless we were running water constantly.

the good news is someone from the city water department should be at the house in about 10 minutes to check.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 8:22AM
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I agree, there is a problem somewhere. There are three of us here. Energy Star dishwasher only runs twice a week. Energy Star washer, three times per week. Short showers. We use 4000 gallons per month. As much as 6000 gallons in the summer for watering garden and adding to pond. Years ago our neighbors (just two of them in the home) got hit with a bill for over 11000 galons in one month. The pipe had busted just above the meter. Yes, they still had water. Once that was fixed by the water company their bill was readjusted accordingly.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 9:44AM
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two toilets had slow but steady leaks (the previous owner had installed some watersaving flushing mechanisms but they were not adjusted properly - the water was filling all the way up to the top of the overflow pipe (with a slow but steady overflow in two toilets, the toilet that we rarely use was the worst)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 12:52PM
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I'm lucky - more or less.

Live on a farm.

Landlord fixes the pump, when needed - he replaced one in the barn, this summer.

I pay for the electricity to run the pump.

Problem: the well serving the house is too close to the barnyad, way over allowed limits on e coli, so I only use it for washing.

Old uncle, former owner, kept cattle but barn now empty, will remain so. Water should be within allowable limits in ... what? about 10 years or so (and I'll be about 87 by then).

Bring in city water in plastic jugs for cooking, drinking - takes less than 4 litres (slightly over 1 U.S. Gal.) per day.

That's for one person only.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 4:36PM
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Reading between the lines looks like you use an outhouse then wash your wash your hands, clothes and dishes in the e coli.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 11:16PM
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I fixed the toilets but I had a 30 CF consumption between when I went to bed and when I woke up.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 10:41AM
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How do you use water when you are asleep? Is there a humidifier hooked to the furnace? That would use water. How about an ice maker? Although that still seems a lot for just that. I'd shut off the supply lines in the house to everything and see what happens. Is there a garden hose hooked up somewhere that could have a small leak?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 10:50AM
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Remote possibility:

The water heater drain valve could concievably leak or be inadvertantly partly open and if the previous owner fixed it up to drain externally you might not see it.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 11:14AM
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lizql: no humidifier, ice maker, or garden hose (any leak outdoors would creat a significant amount of ice - I'm in Maine so it is still below freezing most of the time)

So I tried shutting off the water supply to various items, and I think it happens to be my hot water heating system. I shut off the water supply line to the furnace and the water consumption basically stopped. When I turn it back on by meter reading slowly but steadily increases. You can also hear water running in the pipes. Turn off the water to the furnace and that running sound stops. This is with the power cut to the furnace so no circulators are running.

I guess it's time to move this topic to a plumbing/heating forum since there definately appears to be a leak.

I also tried shutting off the water out to the heating zones and to the domestic hot water, no change.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 3:36PM
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With everything shut off, there should be no flow. Go check the meter again, but ignore the numbers. Almost every meter has a little indicator in the center (maybe a little bubble or a little triangle, etc.), which moves with even the most minor flow. I've seen them move around when a garden hose was dripping a couple of drops a second. This will at least confirm whether you have more leaks to look for.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 4:10PM
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You'd be surprised just how much water a leaky toilet can waste... I know nothing about cubic feet or gallons or dollar amounts or what ever... When we first moved in we were using 9 units of water per billing period all of a sudden it jumped to 12 units... I called the water department to complain and they mentioned adding food coloring to the tank ( as someone mentioned earlier ) to see if the toilets were leaking... Well I added the food coloring before we went to bed and checked all three toilets in the morning... Two bowls were color free and one had a slight tint... So far so good only one had to be fixed... NOPE... Seems they were all leaking, two of them had a constant leak and all the coloring was gone from the tanks too.... Fixed all three and now we're back to 9 units again.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 1:38PM
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it's a leak in one of my heating circuits. I have a split level with a large familly room and a landry/bathroom in the lower level (aka finished walk out basement). The supply and return lines to the baseboards go through the concrete floor under wall to wall carpet. There are no wet spots on the carpet, so all the leaked water drained out under the house. That circuit is now shut off and my consumption problems are gone.

Now I just need to fix it - and that's a different story!!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 1:19PM
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Glad you found the problem.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 10:21AM
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sid 79,

Yes - glad you found the problem.

But - not so glad to hear what it turns out to be ... as that'll almost certainly entail a lot of work, trouble and expense.

Any idea whether they may be able to locate the leak prior to chewing up the floor to find it?

Hope so.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 6:09PM
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