A Simple Solution to High Water Bills

June 22nd, 2012

What can contribute to a high water bill?

No one wants to pay too much for utilities. You have probably already done a ton of research on how to lower your heating and electric bills. Now, the problem is that after getting those bills to a manageable level by wearing extra sweaters and installing compact fluorescent bulbs all over the house, your water bill has gotten out of control. What gives? How can a water bill suddenly spike so high? There are two main causes of a high water bill: a leak or a change in water use.


When there is a leak anywhere in your plumbing system, water escapes and more water rushes in to replace it. This means a higher water bill. Some common culprits in these circumstances include:

  • Leaky or running toilets
  • A leaky faucet, especially one on the outside of the house where it can go undetected
  • A broken or cracked pipe within the walls of the house
  • A broken, cracked or corroded water main

Ninety percent (90%) of all leaks in residential plumbing systems are found in the toilet tank. Toilet tank leaks typically result from worn parts or improper alignment of some part of the flushing mechanism. It is very important to stop the leak. Stop the leak and stop the expensive water bill from hitting you every month. Don’t wait, call Plumber Salt Lake City. Need to hire a professional? Find a technician in your area.

If the water company comes out, they will look at your meter, and they may tell you that a leak indicator on the top of the meter may be spinning away. This is a classic indication of a water leak and often a slab leak. There are several different types of slab leaks. The service line of your home runs from the water meter to the shut-off valve in your house. If you close the shut off valve in your house, the leak indicator on top of the water meter will continue to spin.

If you have a leak in your home between the shut-off valve and of the water fixtures in your house, when you close the shut-off valve, the leak indicator will stop also. If the leak is on the service line, there is still a chance, even if you don’t see water in your yard, which the leak on the line could be outside of the foundation of your home. This is most likely in climates where freezing is an issue as service lines are often required to be 36-48 inches underground to prevent their freezing when the temperature turns cold, and lines buried at such depth can allow even significant water loss to find its way down rather than reaching the surface. In areas where freezing is not a concern, lines are often run much closer to the surface, and leaks on the service line outside of your slab are often more readily apparent. Never fear!!

Once you realize that you have a leak, you can begin getting a plan to find and repair it. A qualified plumber that handles a lot of slab leaks will have the equipment to find your leak. You can also call a leak detection company that handles nothing but slab leaks and hidden water leaks.

Methods to Help You with this Diagnosis:

  • You’ll want to turn off all the appliances in the house that use water – including dishwasher, icemaker, and water heater. It can be a challenge in a modern house to find all the water-using appliances! Turn off all the faucets while you’re moving around the house.
  • Go to your water meter (If you can’t easily read it, use the step below). One of the dials should be marked as a 1 cubic foot (“1 cu ft”) dial. See if it moves – you may need to wait 20-30 minutes to see if there’s any change. If there is some change, either you missed a faucet or water-using appliance, or you have a water leak somewhere.
  • Open a faucet so that water runs so you can hear what the system sounds like (using a mechanic’s stethoscope) when water is flowing through it. Find the water main (where the water comes into the house from the outside). Listen with the mechanic’s stethoscope. Now turn the faucet off, making sure all water-using appliances are off and all faucets are off. Turn the main valve off – now there is no flow at all. Listen with the stethoscope to that (lack of) sound. Now, turn the main valve back on, and listen again to see if you can hear any flow. If you do, and you’re sure there are no faucets or appliances using water, it’s time to call a plumber.
  • Don’t forget to turn the faucets and appliances, and especially the water heater, back on when you’re done!

Some of these are more obvious than others. If your toilet is leaky or running, you have probably noticed by now and should call a plumber like Plumber Salt Lake City. Do a check on all your faucets, indoors and out, to see if they are dripping. A leaky pipe or water main is also usually accompanied by a drop in water pressure. If your shower head seems weaker than it used to, or your clothes aren’t rinsing clean in the laundry, these can be signs of decreased water pressure brought on by leaky pipes.

Changes in Use

You may think that you would notice if you all of a sudden started using much more water than usual, but it is not always that obvious. Sometimes we use water in sneaky ways that we don’t even notice, which can build up over time if done habitually. Some of these covert causes of increased water usage include:

  • A new shower head with a higher flow rate
  • Overwatering the lawn
  • Doing laundry more frequently than usual (such as after a child is born, for example) or getting a new washing machine that uses more water

High water bills can be caused by many things, but if there is a sudden lurch and nothing to explain it, you very well may have a problem with leaking pipes or fixtures. Your company’s maintenance supervisor and landscaper will catch many problems, but not all of them… and usually not the most serious ones.

Course of Action a Business or Home Owner can take when the Water Bill Suddenly Spikes:

  1. Check to see if your water district just raised prices.
  2. Compare water usage on the current bill with the last bills. When did it jump up? What was going on that month?
  3. Notify your inside and outside maintenance supervisors. They may have found something already or would appreciate knowing so they can check.
  4. Wait another month. If still high, compare that month’s bill with the same bill from the year before. How does that water use compare?
  5. If much higher, check to see what water-using fixtures were added during the year. Compare that with fixtures that were installed to decrease water use. If your analysis shows that water use is still too high, you likely have a leak somewhere.
  6. Now you will need to call a face-to-face meeting with your maintenance and landscaping supervisors to discuss the probability of a hidden leak. Show them everything you’ve checked already and what you have found. Ask them to do some serious investigating.

Hidden leaks inside are easier to trace than outside ones. You and/or your maintenance supervisor will turn the water on in key locations and listen along the lengths of the pipes. You’ll look for bubbles in the paint on walls and ceilings, and for water leaking out from under floorboards. You’ll press for weak, wet wood anywhere along the length of the pipes and smell for stagnancy anywhere. Generally this kind of leak is found fairly quickly.

Outside is a different matter explains Plumber Salt Lake City. If the landscaper hasn’t already found it, the leak is likely underground, which makes it hard to hear or smell. Instead of weak wood or puddles on the floor, he’ll need to look for squishy ground along lateral lines between sprinklers. He’ll also need to test water pressure between stations. If water pressure is reasonably high near where the water comes in from the main source, but suddenly decreases further along in one section of the landscape, there’s likely a hidden leak between those two points. He’ll need to walk the pipelines there to look for flooded areas, exceptionally green spurts of grass, or mushrooms growing (mushrooms love water).

If the irrigation system is completely off, but the meter still runs, then the problem is outside. If the dedicated meter is still, then the problem is inside. Now it’s time to call a plumber. But what if the dedicated meter is still, and so is the mixed use meter that measures water use inside the building? In that case it’s a problem with high water use. You will need to call for a water audit.

A water auditor checks all of your water use inside and out, looking for ways you can decrease use, while still maintaining good service. The resulting report will show how different parts of your business use water and how much, what practices can be changed to use it more efficiently, and which equipment can be upgraded to reduce water use. It will also show you what kinds of incentives your local and regional water suppliers offer – like rebates or free fixtures to help with purchase costs.

Taking action on a water audit and better maintenance can save you a lot of water in the long run states Plumber Salt Lake City. Between that and sewage savings resulting from installation of the dedicated meter, and electrical savings from a reduction in hot water used, you should be able to bring several bills down to a more reasonable level.