The water bill is a major utility in almost any city. In Clearwater, it’s an especially worrisome concern.
Not only does a high water bill cost you money, it can indicate a significant waste of one of our most precious resources. So, when your water bill is high, it’s only natural to want to track down the cause and correct it as soon as possible.
With this in mind, here are a few common reasons for a high water bill, and what you can do about them:
1: Leaky/Running Toilets
Here’s an interesting fact from the EPA: toilets account for 26.7% of the indoor water use for the average American home. This makes toilets the single biggest source of indoor water use.
A running or leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water in a single day, or 1,400 gallons of water per week.
Not sure if your toilet is leaking? You can check for a toilet leak in two ways:
- The Sound Check. Simply walk up to your toilet and listen. If you hear an odd hiss-like noise, you may have a leak and will want to check further.
- The Dye Test. For this test, you’ll need some food coloring or a dye tablet. Take the lid off of your toilet’s tank and put in a couple of drops of coloring (or a dye tablet). After you’ve put the dye in the tank, wait for 15-20 minutes and check the toilet bowl for dye. If dye is present, then there’s a leak allowing tank water to flow into the bowl.
In most cases, these leaks will be caused by a faulty flapper in the toilet tank. This is a relatively easy fix that only requires a short trip to your local home improvement/hardware store and a few minutes.
2: Leaky Faucets & Fixtures
Leaky faucet fixtures are another all-too-common cause of high water bills. The heavier the leak, the more water gets wasted, and the higher the water bill will be. For example, as noted by the EPA, “a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.”
Thankfully, this is a problem that’s easy to spot and fix.
A simple visual check of your faucets, shower heads, and other fixtures is all it takes to identify a leak at the fixture.
The most common cause of a faucet leak is a faulty rubber washer in the faucet handle. In most cases, you can shut off the water to the leaky faucet, unscrew the handle, remove the bad washer, and replace it with a new one.
3: Irrigation Leaks
Not all leaks occur indoors. If you have an irrigation system for your landscaping, a line crack or loose joint could allow water to leak even when the irrigation system is off.
Finding these leaks can be a little tricky, especially if the lines for the irrigation system are buried out of sight.
To spot these leaks, you may need to check your landscaping/lawn for unusually damp patches or areas of grass that are more lush than their surroundings. However, these signs of a leak are similar to the signs of a leak in a lateral line.
To fix this kind of leak, you may need to consult a professional plumber to find the location of the leak and to fix or replace the affected irrigation lines.
4: Lateral Line Leaks
In some cases, one of the underground pipes feeding water from your metered connection to your home may have a crack or loose joint. The causes of these leaks vary, but things such as pipe age, seismic activity, tree root intrusion, and animal activity are often contributing factors.
This problem, while similar to an irrigation leak, is usually much more severe.
When trying to tell if the leak is in your irrigation line or your lateral line water supply pipe, the amount of extra water consumption noted on your utility bill can serve as an indicator.
For these leaks, the best solution is to contact a professional. A professional can recommend the best solution for the problem—such as traditional trench & replace, trenchless pipe lining, or pipe bursting.
5: Old, Outdated Fixtures & Toilets
Many homes in Florida have a long history attached to them, and equally old plumbing fixtures.
In recent years, there have been numerous efficiency improvements made to common water fixtures, such as new-model aerators for faucets, low-flow water-saving toilets, and water-saving shower heads.
This rarely shows up as a sudden problem—it’s usually something that comes with the house and has you paying high water bills from day one.
Check your home’s faucets, toilets, showerheads, and other water-using equipment for WaterSense labeling, or date of manufacture. When buying a new home, ask the owner or real estate agent how old the plumbing fixtures are.
6: Recent Changes in Water Use
One small change in your water use habits or household situation can have a big difference on your utility bill. Two big reasons you might change your water use habits include a change in the season or adding a new guest/family member to your household.
The best fix to counter or prevent a sharp spike in your water use is to plan ahead when possible.
In some cases, you may need to budget for higher water consumption during certain months or for as long as you have that additional person in your home.
7: New Water-Consuming Equipment
On a related note, adding new water-intensive equipment to your home can also cause a significant increase in your water bill. Pools, sprinkler systems, washing machines, freezers, and other new equipment can result in a sudden increase in your water bill.
To minimize the impact of new equipment on your water bill, try to select appliances that are marked as high-efficiency or have the WaterSense logo.
If you add a pool to your property, be sure to cover it when not in use to minimize the water loss from evaporation so you don’t have to use as much water to refill it.
8: Bad Water Wasting Habits
Often, a substantial water bill can be the result of overconsumption behaviors affiliated with appliances and home utilities. These behaviors include:
- Using top-loading laundry machines, which consume as much as 200% more water than modern, front-loading laundry machines.
- Using washing machines for half- or quarter-loads, as opposed to waiting for full laundry loads.
- Overwatering lawns and unmediated use of water-consuming recreational toys and equipment.
- Lengthy and unnecessary shower times. Keeping showers less than five minutes can result in up to 1,000 gallons of water savings every month.
- Running water to thaw meats and frozen foods, as opposed to taking them out of freezers at earlier, more appropriate times.
- Washing dishes by hand. Running water while washing a load of dishes consumes 4-5 times more water than dishwashers.
- Keeping water running while brushing teeth or shaving, which is an unnecessary waste of water flow.
By limiting water consuming behaviors and learning alternative methods of water use, you can significantly lower your water bill and resource efficiency.