FAQ: Why Is My Fall Water Bill So High?

Recently many customers have contacted us with concerns about a higher-than-normal water bill.  We want to address some of your FAQs here.

First, a few general things to keep in mind when you receive your September/October water bill:

Your first fall bi-monthly bill covers the majority of your summer water use, the biggest portion of which is usually from outdoor water use. It’s easy to take for granted how much water a few hours a day – even a few hours a week – of irrigating racks up.

One hour of watering with a 5/8″ standard hose uses approximately 1,020 gallons of water, or 136 cubic feet (cf) (1 cf = 7.48 gal), or 1.36 ccf (NUD’s billing units). Multiply out 3 times per week for 8 weeks, and you have 33 additional units of water on your bill already! Many people do other water-heavy activities in summer, like filling up pools or pressure washing.

In addition, this unusual summer gave us hot weather plus a record 56 days without rain!  Many of us attempting to keep green landscapes had to put in extra water work.

NUD reads water meters remotely, to avoid human error.

In 2012, NUD exchanged all of our manually-read meters for electronic radio-transmitted versions. When we collect meter use data for your bi-monthly bill, our techs drive a vehicle equipped with a computer that records the radio-transmitted data. Collecting information electronically reduces human error and the possibility of inaccurate manual recording.

Other parts of your bill are affected by higher water usage.

Three-tier billing structure:  To encourage conservation, we bill in a tiered-usage structure. This means, when your water usage goes up, you pay a higher rate per ccf. One to 10 ccfs is billed at $3.45/ccf, 11-20 ccfs at $4.45 and over 20 at $5.45.

Increased sewer usage charges:  Sewer usage charges have to do with how much “used” water you are releasing to be processed through the wastewater system. When water consumption is 15 ccfs and over, we assess $4.00 per ccf sewer usage charges (in addition to base charge). Few single-family homes reach this threshold.

Franchise fees: These fees are set by and paid directly to the city. Because they are defined as a percentage of your bill, when your bill increases from higher water usage, your franchise fee will increase as well.  More info on franchise fees is available here.

What you can do to reduce water usage:

We recognize a very high water bill can come as a shock. The good news is that your summer water bills are the highest you’ll experience all year. But there are a few things you can do to lower your water use during the summer, and throughout the year.

Be very careful setting irrigation timing systems. Recently a customer’s meter data showed an irrigation timer system set to run over 100 cfs (750 gallons) of water every night! If you have an automatic irrigation timer, check the settings regularly – or water waste can add up fast. Doubly so for soaker hoses left unchecked.

Audit your own water usage using your water meter. We read your meter remotely once every two months. But you can track your water usage more frequently at your water meter. Knowing how to read your meter can help you detect leaks early, measure the amount of water used, and understand your water charges. Find step-by-step information on how to read your water meter here.

Watch the comparison graph on your bill. If you’re out of normal usage range for a specific time of year, this could mean you have a leak somewhere. But when you check the comparison graphs, make sure to compare apples to apples – i.e. this year’s summer water use against last year’s summer use.

Check toilets for leaks regularly. A silently leaking toilet can waste gallons a day without notice.

And call us anytime to talk through your bill.

Hopefully this helps answer some of the questions circulating about unusually high water bills. We are always happy to talk with you in person. Contact our billing department at (425) 398-4402 or billing@nud.net.