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Top 10 Reasons For a High Water Bill


Most of us try to conserve water where we can. It’s good for the environment and good for your pocketbook. But sometimes your water bill may unexpectedly spike. Here are 10 reasons that your bill may suddenly be going through the roof.

1. Leaky or Running Toilet

The number one cause of unusually high water bills is a toilet that continues to run after it has been flushed. A continuously running toilet can waste hundreds of gallons a day. That can add up to a serious spike in your monthly water bill.

Fortunately, the causes of and solutions to toilet leaks are usually pretty simple. The most common cause of a toilet leak is a damaged flush valve (flapper) in the toilet’s water tank. Here’s how to check for a damaged flush valve:

  • Remove the lid on the water tank. Flush the toilet and wait for it to refill.
  • If the tank isn’t refilling, you have a serious leak. The flush valve isn’t forming a seal and water is pouring into the toilet bowl and down the drain. You have found the source of your high water bill.
  • If the tank refills, the next step is to put some food coloring (or a dye tablet you get at a hardware store) into the tank.
  • Wait 20 minutes and check on the toilet. If there is dye in the toilet bowl, you have a slow leak.

Luckily, this kind of leak is easy to fix. If you are even a little bit handy, you can do it yourself. Most hardware stores and home improvement stores carry replacement flush valves. Most toilets use a 2 inch flush valve, but some newer toilets use a 3 inch flush valve. The difference should be easy to see. If your valve looks about the size of an orange or a baseball, it’s 2 inch. If it looks like a grapefruit or softball, it’s 3 inch. If you want to be sure, take a picture of your flush valve and then look for a replacement valve that looks the same.

2. Leaky Faucet or Fixture

Another common cause of high water bills is a leaky faucet or fixture. If you have a dripping leak in one of your sinks, a bathtub faucet, or a showerhead, you could be wasting a lot of water.

Luckily, this problem is very easy to detect and almost as easy to fix. Detection is as simple as a quick look at all your faucets and fixtures. You should be able to see if one of them is leaking. Usually, the problem is a deteriorated rubber washer in the handle. You can get a replacement washer at a local hardware or home improvement store. To install it, shut off the water to that area and unscrew the faucet. You can then pull off the faulty washer, pop on the new one, and screw the faucet back into place. If you’re intimidated by the process, any handyman or plumber can do it for you.

3. Sprinkler System Leak

If you have a sprinkler system or any type of installed irrigation system, it could be the source of your high water bill. Leaks can occur anywhere in the irrigation system, so you’ll have to do a careful inspection to track it down. One sign to look for is an area of your yard that is unusually damp or that has unusually lush growth. If you suspect an outdoor irrigation leak, you may need to call in a plumber to find it and replace the affected lines.

4. Outdoor Hose Leak

This is a lot easier to spot than an irrigation leak. Simply do a visual inspection of your outdoor hose spigots. If you notice a dripping leak, or a wet spot underneath the spigot, it’s not hard to fix. The repair is similar to an indoor faucet leak.

5. Lateral Line Leak

This is a pretty common leak and will often result in one of the highest spikes in your water bill. A lateral line leak is a leak in the water pipe that travels from the water meter to your home. Unfortunately, any leak that occurs on the house side of the water meter is the responsibility of the homeowner.

In order to find and repair a lateral line leak you will need to hire a good plumber. TrustDALE has a number of recommended plumbers in the Atlanta area. Superior Plumbing, R.S. Andrews Plumbing, and Mr. Rooter - Plumbing are all TrustDALE certified and backed by the TrustDALE Make-it-Right guarantee.

6. Old Toilets and Fixtures

This doesn’t usually cause a spike in your water bill, but it can account for ongoing high water bills. If you move from a newer home into an older home, you may find that your older home uses a lot more water. That’s because newer technologies have led to some significant gains in water conservation. 

Old toilets can use three times as much water as newer high efficiency toilets. Toilets installed before 1995 can use up to 6 or 7 gallons per flush. In contrast, after 1995 toilets were required to use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.

Old faucets and fixtures can also use a lot more water than newer ones. Modern faucets and shower heads use aerators that can use less water but still give the impression of the same water flow. The older your faucets, the less likely they are to have any kind of water conservation considerations.

7. Changes in Water Use

Sometimes the spike in your water bill is not a mystery if you stop and think about it. If you are using more water than usual, your bill will be higher. For instance, if you find yourself taking more baths instead of showers, you could be driving up your water bill. Filling a bathtub uses a lot more water than a quick shower. If you are just taking longer showers, that could affect your bill, too.

One way you could use a lot more water in a short time is if you are filling a swimming pool. Swimming pools hold a lot of water, so if you are topping of a pool multiple times a month during the summer, you could be causing a spike in your water usage. Make sure to use a pool cover when your pool is not in use to minimize evaporation.

8. New Appliances

Sometimes you can see an unexpected spike in your water bill after purchasing a new appliance or installing new equipment. Washing machines are an obvious source of water use. But there are other appliances you might not suspect, like a new freezer. Installing equipment like a new water heater or sprinkler system could also use more water. In general, newer appliances tend to be more efficient. But if you want to be sure, look for high efficiency equipment to save on water and electricity.

9. Guests and Additions to the Family

If you have more people (or even pets) in the house, you could see your water bill rise. If you have guests who stay for more than a day or two, the extra bathing, laundry, and dishes can add up quickly. If you get a new pet, constantly filling a water bowl, bathing your pet, and doing more laundry can increase your water usage.

If you have a new addition to the family, or if your little baby has transitioned into a toddler, you could see a lot more water usage. The amount of laundry will skyrocket, and regularly filling a tub for bath time can use a lot of water. Washing bottles and children’s dishes can also increase water use.

10. Bad Habits

This is probably more of a long-term issue than a spike in your water bill, but it could be costing you money. Here are a few bad habits to avoid:

  • Longer than necessary showers
  • Keeping the faucet running while you brush your teeth or shave
  • Overwatering your lawn
  • Using a washing machine for lots of small loads instead of filing it up for fewer loads
  • Using running water to thaw frozen foods instead of taking them out to thaw ahead of time or just placing them in a bowl of warm water
  • Washing dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher (which is much more efficient)

If you notice a spike in your water bill and can’t figure out where it’s coming from, don’t hesitate to call a TrustDALE certified plumber. We recommend Superior Plumbing, R.S. Andrews Plumbing, and Mr. Rooter - Plumbing in the Atlanta area.

And if your bill is extremely high, some counties and municipalities have programs you can apply for that offer a one time partial discount on your water bill, even if it is not the fault of the public utility.