Resolving High Utility Bills
Identifying Reasons for High Bills
How Can You Test for Leaks?
Some leaks can be detected without an experienced professional. One common type of leak that you can check for is a silent toilet leak. To perform this test, simply drop some nonpermanent food coloring into your toilet tank. If after 45 to 60 minutes the coloring shows up in your toilet bowl, you have this type of leak. These leaks can often be repaired by changing the flapper.
Another common culprit - dripping faucets - can typically be repaired by replacing the rubber O-ring, washer or valve stem.
A change in your water use pattern. This is the most common reason for high water consumption. Frequent visitors, new appliances or regular watering of your lawn or garden can substantially affect your bill. Learn water conservation tips.
A leak on your side of the City water meter. Many households have some kind of plumbing leak, which can waste a surprising amount of water. For example, depending on its size, a continuously running toilet can waste between 1,000 and 4,000 gallons of water per day and potentially increase your bill by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A single faucet that drips just once every second wastes 8.6 gallons per day, or almost 800 gallons per quarter. Toilets, hot water heaters, inline humidifiers, and irrigation systems are common sources of leaks.
A misread meter. We’ll automatically reread water meters that show a significant increase in water consumption since the last reading to ensure that no human error was made.
A faulty meter. Occasionally our water meters don’t accurately measure a property’s water consumption. In most of these cases, our meters “fail slow.” That is, they register less water consumption than what actually occurred.
More accurate readings due to a new meter. Because the City’s meters may run slower as they age, your utility bills may decrease over time. As a result, when we replace older meters with newer meters - which we try to do every 10 years - you may have higher water and sewer charges as a result of having more accurate readings. We estimate that 70% of all residential meters in the City that are more than 10 years old under-read water consumption. The City's new Automated Meter Readers (AMR) will be more accurate which may result in higher bills which are actually tracking the correct amount of water flowing through the meter. No system is 100% accurate. As such we have developed the following for resolving high utility bills:
Disputing High Bills
We will not make adjustments to utility accounts unless we find clear evidence that:
- A meter was read incorrectly.
- A water leak was present on the customer’s side of the water meter and the customer meets the criteria for a leak adjustment.
We make the following resources available to residents and businesses to determine whether an adjustment is warranted:
We will automatically reread water meters that show a significant increase in water consumption since the last reading to ensure that no human error was made. The reread occurs before water bills are sent out to customers.
High-use investigations. You may request that we perform a high-use investigation to help you determine whether a water leak is present at your property. You should be present during the investigation to ensure that no appliances are in use and to turn off your main water valve when requested to rule out any possible underground leak. Please note that our personnel are not authorized to enter your home during this investigation. Also, you should be aware that high-use investigations can only identify whether a leak is indicated at the time of the investigation. As a result, we may not be able to detect intermittent leaks that disappear before they can be properly identified. To request a high-use investigation, call 703-228-6570.
Leak Adjustment Policy
We will adjust customers’ accounts for water leaks when provided proof - such as a receipt from a plumber - that repairs were made promptly after a leak was first identified. Learn how to apply for a leak adjustment.
Customers are only eligible for a leak adjustment once every five years for leaks that occur inside the house or building.