My Water Bill Is Twice as High! Why?

Is your water bill a lot higher than it should be? There are two main reasons why this might be the case. Either, you aren’t living a particularly efficient lifestyle or there’s a problem with your plumbing system. An issue could include a leak. A pinhole-sized leak in a pipe is enough to seriously change how much water you use on a weekly or daily basis. As such, it’s important to address an issue like this and ensure that you know what’s causing that big bill. 

You need to look at two pieces of evidence here. There are your meter and your water bill. 

The Water Bill

Before you explore your water meter which is going to be quite a technical issue, take a look at your water bill. Here, you’ll find plenty of information on your usage and while bills do differ depending on your region there are typically shared factors. 


You need to think about what your water is being measured in. This is either going to be a hundred cubic feet units (ccf) or gallons. To make sense of your water bill, you need to convert a ccf into gallons. One ccf is the equivalent of 748 gallons of water. So, this is just a case of completing the math.

Reading Type

There are two main types of readings. These can be actual and estimate. As the name suggests, an actual reading will provide true information on how much water has been used. An estimate will have been estimated by your water company. This will occur when a meter can’t be read for whatever reason. Usually, on the bill, the reading will be marked as A for actual and E for an estimate. 

Be aware that a high water bill can be due to an actual reading being far greater than the original estimate. That’s why if your reading is estimated, you should contact your water provider to find out why your meter couldn’t be read. 

Period Of Service

This shows you how many days of service are included in your water bill. Be aware that the number of days can fluctuate for a couple reasons. You might find that reading is delayed due to a holiday. Alternatively, it’s possible that the number of days in a month causes a slight yet significant spike. These are changes that you don’t have to worry about but that could provide a cause for your increased bill. Alternatively, it’s possible that you can identify certain jumps up compared to other periods of service. An issue here could be due to a change in your home or your lifestyle. You might have filled up the swimming pool, had more guests staying in your home or you could have needed to water a dry garden. It is worth exploring occurrences like this and their presence on your bill to find out whether there is a reasonable explanation. Certain bills will provide a graph to make spikes in water usage easy to check for. 

Check The Base Rate

Typically, a utility provider will not just charge for the amount of water that you use. They will also charge a base rate. A base rate is a cost that you will need to pay even if you use no water. So, you could switch off the water and leave the home for a month. You’ll still have a water bill for that period due to the base rate. This can be included with a certain level of usage or it can be completely separate from your usage. You might have a base bill with some usage and then an additional level on top that’s separate. If you do notice a spike, make sure you take a look at your other bills. It’s possible that the base rate has increased and you have no control over this. 

Sewer Base Rate

Be aware that as well as a base rate for water usage, there will also be a base rate for sewer usage. Since water usage does impact your sewer usage, the costs will typically be included together. As such, it’s possible that the sewer base rate has changed and this is the cause of the uptick. You can find out by contacting your provider. They’ll be able to fill you in here and ensure that you are aware of any changes. 

Size Of The Meter

There’s a simple rule here. A small meter will typically result in lower rates to pay for your water, but it will also mean that the water pressure in the building can decrease. You also can’t change your meter on a whim. Instead, you will typically need to get approval from your water provider Typically, your home should have the ⅝-inch meter and this does provide the lowest rate. So, if you’re already using this meter, there’s not much more than you can do. 

Labeling Mistake

Be aware that in some locations, you’ll find that there are completely different rates for residential and commercial properties. It is possible that your home has accidentally been labeled as a business address. That will often mean that you’re paying a higher rate than you should be. This can easily be checked on your bill or by contacting your water provider. 

Finding Your Water Meter

Typically, your water meter will be close to the curb at the front of the property. If you live in an old home or a cold climate, it might be inside and this could be down in the basement. 

If a water meter is outside, you’ll typically find it is housed in a concrete box that says water. It could also be in a meter pit and have a cast iron lid. You’ll need to remove the lid with a large screwdriver. You should make sure that there is no insect or animal around that could harm you. 

Inside the home, a meter could be in a utility closet or cupboard and will have a plastic covering. It may be inside a wooden box. 

Advice For Outside Meters

It is possible for a meter like this to be filled with standing water. Pump it out to get a clear reading and then shut off the water to the building. Usually, the shut-off valve will be located in the basement. If your home has a slab foundation, you might find it in the utility room, or on the side of your home. After the water has been shut off, run a tap to ensure the valve has worked. It’s possible leftover water will run out but this will only go on for a couple minutes. Next, you need to check if the meter is continuing to move. 

If the meter moves, then this shows that there is likely a leak on the service line. This runs from the shut-off valve to the street. If the water meter does not move, this means that the leak is after the shut-off valve within the building. So, turn the water back on to locate the source. 

First, make sure no water is being used. This will be shown by a meter that continues to run or a red triangle. Next, you need to start shutting off the water for each of the devices that use it throughout the building. This includes everything from showers to heaters, washing machines, toilets and much more. Once you turn off each device, check to see if the meter stops moving. When it does, you’ve found the source of your heavy water bill. If the meter doesn’t stop at all, then this points to a specific type of leak. Usually, this will be located either in a wall or under the slab floor and will be completely hidden. 

Advice For Inside Meters

As mentioned, insider water will typically be located somewhere on the wall of a basement. Or, it could be inside the utility room. The shut-off valve for the inside meter is typically going to be somewhere near to the meter itself and can be used to shut off water for the entire property. 

The steps to check for a leak are the same for an outdoor water meeting. You need to make sure that no water is being used and then turn off each device one by one. When the meter stops, you have discovered the area causing the issue. Again, if the water doesn’t stop, then you may have a hidden leak. 

Shut Off Valve Locations For Common Fixtures And Appliances

To check for a leak, you need to make sure that you are using the valves to turn off each device and fixture. As such, it’s useful to know exactly where each one is for typical devices. 

If you need to turn off the valve for the toilet, you will find them at the back of the basin. They will be exposed making them easy to adjust. For dishwashers, they can typically be located underneath the kitchen sink while ice dispensers usually have one at the back of the fridge. This connects the tube to the fridge and the valve stops the supply of water. You will also find a hose bib for the garden hose. This can typically be located in a wall or as part of an access panel. 

If you need to turn off the water to the heater system then you will typically find a valve on the pipe that delivers water directly to the tank. Sinks usually have a shut-off valve near the sink whereas showers tend to have one concealed behind the wall or as part of another access panel. 

Finally, you might need to turn off the washing machine. There are usually two valves for hot and cold water. These are often marked with red and blue tabs. Both will need to be turned off to ensure that you can assess whether this is the issue. 

No Issue Found?

It’s possible that you complete all these steps and still don’t find the cause of the issue. In cases like this, it is possible that the problem is a fixture that is on a timer. This could include an irrigation system. If the timer is off, the water usage won’t register. To solve this issue you need to turn the timer off and ensure that the water usage is being registered. Once you do this, you can change the valves to check whether this is the cause of the problem. 

If you still have no idea what the cause of the issue is, then you will need to take further action. You can monitor your bills and see if they go back to normal with the next reading. If they do then it’s a blip and that’s nothing to worry about. Alternatively, it’s possible that the reading is still high the next time you get a bill.

The water usage could also be too high due to an issue with the meter. As they age, meters do become less reliable and may need to be replaced. Ask your municipality about this possibility and they should check whether a replacement is necessary. 

Before you contact your water provider about an issue, make sure that you are checking your average water usage. You can do this by taking the total on the bill and dividing it by the number of days. This will tell you whether you’re anywhere close to the US EPA average. 

Typically, the average person will use around 88 gallons every day. So, you need to multiply this by the number of people in the home to find out how much you should be using. 

Be aware that certain areas of your home cause more issues than others and this includes the toilets. Toilets cover about thirty percent of water usage in a property. So, if your water usage is high, you may want to think about replacing your toilet with a more modern, efficient model. 

If on the other hand, you have found a leak, it’s important to get a pro and ensure that a fix is completed as quickly as possible. As well as driving up the costs of your water usage, a leak can lead to thousands in property damage. You can avoid this if you get a leak located and repaired immediately. 

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