$5000 water bill-Help!

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workingfornow
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$5000 water bill-Help!

Post by workingfornow » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:54 am

Yes—you read that right. We got our water bill about a week ago, and instead of the usual $150-200 bill for 3 months of use, our water bill was more than $5000 for 5 months of use. They said we used 259,000 gallons of water over that 5-month period (258,000 for sewer –we have a separate meter for outside water which used 1000 gallons). This was an average daily water consumption >1600 gallons per day—previous consumption over the past 5 years ranged from 56-287 gallons per day and averaged <100 gallons/day. The company is coming out to read the meter today, but we checked our interior water meter, and it matches up with the bill, so that’s probably not an error.

The only potential source for the leak is a leak in a little-used toilet which my husband noticed in December. As soon as he became aware of the problem, he changed the ballcock valve. We have checked change in our water meter in the week since we got the bill, and only used about 100 gallons/day—so back to usual usage.

The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage, but that still leaves us with a $2500 bill, which seems crazy. The situation was made worse by their delay in billing to 5 months instead of the usual 3, which not only meant we had no knowledge of the problem for a longer time but that we were charged a double rate for all that time, since they increase the cost/gallon with increasing water usage .

I have a few queries:
1) Can one leaky toilet really generate >1600 gallons/day of water usage?
2) Is this worth appealing? At the very least, since they didn’t send a bill for 5 months vs the usual 3, I think they should prorate the bill for 3 months of use
3) In 2019, shouldn’t they have some mechanism of detecting a 10-fold increase in water usage and notifying the consumer?

Finally—you can learn from our experience. We have just purchased toilet leak detectors with an alarm, and installed them on all of our toilets.

livesoft
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by livesoft » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:05 am

Friends had underground leaks leading into the house after the outdoor meter. It doesn't have to be a toilet.
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fru-gal
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by fru-gal » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:06 am

Is the water run by the town? If you don't get anywhere with the water people directly, you might try them.

At the very least, they shouldn't be charging you a penalty fee for over usage.

Our town installed new meters that have a feature where they notify the utilities office if the meter thinks there's a leak. It apparently doesn't catch slow leaks, but it seems it would catch something like yours.

fru-gal
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by fru-gal » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:08 am

livesoft wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:05 am
Friends had underground leaks leading into the house after the outdoor meter. It doesn't have to be a toilet.
I've had underground pipes leak as well, but since the OP's situation is back to normal after fixing the toilet, the latter would seem to be the source of their problem.

1600 gallons a day is a gallon a minute. I can see a toilet doing that with a bad leak.

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galawdawg
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by galawdawg » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:59 am

Did I read correctly that the toilet leak was noticed by your husband in December but wasn't repaired until after the water bill was received last week, or did he repair it when it was noticed?

If it wasn't repaired until last week, it doesn't sound like the water company bears any responsibility (even with a later than normal bill) and their offer to reduce the amount by 50% is fair. (I certainly wouldn't be happy with a large unexpected expense like that either, unfortunately, that is one of the downsides/risks of home ownership).

If it was repaired in December, then you may want to have a plumber check for other leaks as a quickly repaired toilet leak/running toilet shouldn't have led to that type of consumption.

The tip on installing water leak detection devices is a good one. There are also smart devices that learn your usage, watch for indications of leaks, and notify you so you can remotely shut off the water and repair the issue. Some also will automatically shut off water in the event of a leak, such as this one: https://meetflo.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI ... gI8wfD_BwE

Topic Author
workingfornow
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by workingfornow » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am

Thanks, all. My husband fixed the toilet as soon as he noticed the leak in December. When we got the bill about a week ago and he checked our interior meter, it was close to the amount of usage noted in the bill generated at the end of January--maybe 500 gallons more in one month, which was appropriate since we were away for a couple of weeks in February. And, in the week since the bill,we'd only used about 100 gallons/day. We also have a submeter for non-sewer outside water for irrigation, etc--which did not have increased usage. So it looks like fixing the toilet in December stopped whatever leak was there and there's no leak from the outside, etc.

Thanks for the additional advice about smart detectors--I will look into that.

I will also write to our County Council member about this situation--something like this could be catastrophic for someone without saving--and it can't be that uncommon.

andypanda
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by andypanda » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:27 am

"Can one leaky toilet really generate >1600 gallons/day of water usage?"

With the flapper valve wide open this plumber calculates 4320 gallons per day.

www.danielcordovaplumbing.com/blog/tip- ... ng-toilets

"So let’s say we’re dealing with a standard 1.5 gallon toilet. We’ll assume that it takes approximately 30 seconds for the tank to refill from a standard flush. So that’s 1.5 gallons per flush or per 30 seconds, or 3 gallons per minute. Now, let’s do some real calculations!

60 minutes per hour x 24 hours per day = 1,440 minutes per day

1,440 minutes per day x 3 gallons of water per minute = 4,320 gallons of water per day

7 days per week x 3 weeks = 21 days

4,320 gallons of water per day x 21 days = 90,720!"

Topic Author
workingfornow
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by workingfornow » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:32 am

Wow! I am becoming educated. No idea how long in those in those five months between billings the toilet was leaking. I checked with my husband and he didn't notice and fix the leak until sometime late in January--not long before our bill was generated. I'm so glad he found it and fixed it then, as by the time we received our bill in late February we would probably have generated another thousand dollars or so in water usage.

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RickBoglehead
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by RickBoglehead » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:35 am

livesoft wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:05 am
Friends had underground leaks leading into the house after the outdoor meter. It doesn't have to be a toilet.
But the OP indicated that the usage went down after their toilet repair.
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spectec
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by spectec » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:58 am

I had a similar situation with excess water usage, except our bill was in the $2,500 range and the leak was outside, but on the "house" side of the meter. The first call to the water department simply resulted in someone coming out to check the meter, with a follow-up call to me saying "yep, the meter is working fine. You owe the bill." Typical bureaucratic customer no-service when the supplier is a government agency.

I called back and asked to speak to a supervisor, but of course no one was available. I then asked for the email address for someone in charge, which they gave me. I sent an email explaining the source of the problem and attaching a copy of the bill for the repair parts. (In my case I also had pictures showing the work being done, which I offered to show them). I was mainly seeking to have the sewer charge (60%) removed since I didn't dispute the supply charge. But about 3 weeks later someone called to tell me they were reducing my bill to my previous 12-month average.

Overall an excellent outcome, but only after a little persistence and some gentle persuasion. The entire process took about 2-1/2 months to resolve. YMMV
Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it. - Will Rogers

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leeks
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by leeks » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:09 am

workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
I will also write to our County Council member about this situation--something like this could be catastrophic for someone without saving--and it can't be that uncommon.
You also stated
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
"The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage."
I think your town already has a generous policy in place. $2,500 of your usage is being paid for by local taxpayers (whether the burden falls on their property taxes or such things are factored into the water bill)!

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leeks
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by leeks » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:16 am

spectec wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:58 am
I had a similar situation with excess water usage, except our bill was in the $2,500 range and the leak was outside, but on the "house" side of the meter. The first call to the water department simply resulted in someone coming out to check the meter, with a follow-up call to me saying "yep, the meter is working fine. You owe the bill." Typical bureaucratic customer no-service when the supplier is a government agency.

I called back and asked to speak to a supervisor, but of course no one was available. I then asked for the email address for someone in charge, which they gave me. I sent an email explaining the source of the problem and attaching a copy of the bill for the repair parts. (In my case I also had pictures showing the work being done, which I offered to show them). I was mainly seeking to have the sewer charge (60%) removed since I didn't dispute the supply charge. But about 3 weeks later someone called to tell me they were reducing my bill to my previous 12-month average.

Overall an excellent outcome, but only after a little persistence and some gentle persuasion. The entire process took about 2-1/2 months to resolve. YMMV
I don't understand why you think this was the water department's fault or that this was "customer no-service".
There was a leak on your property. Equipment you own was responsible. Water was wasted which has a cost to the community. Why was it their responsibility to identify the problem with your pipes? Why shouldn't you have had to pay the entire bill?

wxz76
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by wxz76 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:23 am

This happened to my parent's house about 25 years ago. We had a long driveway and the pipe leaked between the house and the meter. Instead of charging them $4,500 the water company used average usage of the previous year as the basis of the new bill.

Keep calling the water company. I hope this workout for you.
Last edited by wxz76 on Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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lthenderson
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by lthenderson » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:23 am

workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:54 am

2) Is this worth appealing? At the very least, since they didn’t send a bill for 5 months vs the usual 3, I think they should prorate the bill for 3 months of use
As others have calculated, you can definitely go through that much water with a stuck open toilet. I wanted to add that we've had failures over the years down on our farm that have caused thousands of gallons to leak out before going noticed. With our water utility, if you offer proof of the break, pictures and receipts showing you fixed it, they will exempt you and just charge you your average monthly use for that time.

ad2007
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by ad2007 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:28 am

livesoft wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:05 am
Friends had underground leaks leading into the house after the outdoor meter. It doesn't have to be a toilet.
Agreed.

A toilet leaking at 1 gal per minute is going to be very noticeable to the home owner.
Otherwise, when water lines fail, they normally fail catastrophically. Check around the house for any very wet areas.

We had a line break recently and the ground was immediately soaked. "Leaked"/lost 7K gallon and my back garden was flooded. 250K gallon is a lot of water. Our pool holds 20K gal. Hard to imagine where all that water went - and unnoticed. Hopefully it's a meter reading problem.

Try this: shut off all water in the house, look at meter to see if it's moving or not. It should in your case (maybe). Then run water at 1 gal per minute from a faucet and see what the meter does now.

Please keep us posted when you find the problem.

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RickBoglehead
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by RickBoglehead » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:30 am

There is no reason that the water company shouldn't be waiving the entire sewer cost related to the leak, given that it's clear from the OP's usage that the leak is now fixed, and the normal usage can be calculated. While the water did go to the treatment plant, it was crystal clean.

My elderly in-laws had a toilet leak a few years back, the flapper wasn't sealing. When I saw the quarterly water bill, I investigated, food coloring in the toilet tanks, and quickly found and fixed the leak. My father in-law knew it wasn't sealing well, but said "it's just water"...
Last edited by RickBoglehead on Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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spectec
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by spectec » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:50 am

leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:16 am
spectec wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:58 am
I had a similar situation with excess water usage, except our bill was in the $2,500 range and the leak was outside, but on the "house" side of the meter. The first call to the water department simply resulted in someone coming out to check the meter, with a follow-up call to me saying "yep, the meter is working fine. You owe the bill." Typical bureaucratic customer no-service when the supplier is a government agency.

I called back and asked to speak to a supervisor, but of course no one was available. I then asked for the email address for someone in charge, which they gave me. I sent an email explaining the source of the problem and attaching a copy of the bill for the repair parts. (In my case I also had pictures showing the work being done, which I offered to show them). I was mainly seeking to have the sewer charge (60%) removed since I didn't dispute the supply charge. But about 3 weeks later someone called to tell me they were reducing my bill to my previous 12-month average.

Overall an excellent outcome, but only after a little persistence and some gentle persuasion. The entire process took about 2-1/2 months to resolve. YMMV
I don't understand why you think this was the water department's fault or that this was "customer no-service".
There was a leak on your property. Equipment you own was responsible. Water was wasted which has a cost to the community. Why was it their responsibility to identify the problem with your pipes? Why shouldn't you have had to pay the entire bill?
Guess I need to spell it out. The "customer no-service" is the cookie-cutter methodology on the public-facing side. Customer has a problem; send out the crew to check the meter; then tell them everything's correct - you owe the bill. No suggestion that perhaps some consideration is available if you escalate the problem to someone who can actually make a decision. I'll guarantee you that if a utility department employee (or any public official) gets a $2,500 water bill, they will know exactly what to do to get an abatement. But as far as the general public is concerned, it's just "sorry Charlie, send us your check."

But hey, if you ever get a $2K - $5K water bill, feel free to pay up without asking any questions. I'm sure your utility department will appreciate your cooperation.
Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it. - Will Rogers

Nowizard
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Nowizard » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:57 am

A key is where the leak occurred, and it appears it was in plumbing rather than the main water main provided by your locality. Generally, that determines responsibility. If so, your recourse is probably limited to the compassion of the provider, and they do have to be consistent since this is not uncommon, particularly if someone has a separate water meter for things such as a pool.

Tim

barnaclebob
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:59 am

leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:09 am
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
"The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage."
I think your town already has a generous policy in place. $2,500 of your usage is being paid for by local taxpayers (whether the burden falls on their property taxes or such things are factored into the water bill)!
This assumes the bill actually matches the cost to produce and treat that amount of water.

Teague
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Teague » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:32 am

barnaclebob wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:59 am
leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:09 am
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
"The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage."
I think your town already has a generous policy in place. $2,500 of your usage is being paid for by local taxpayers (whether the burden falls on their property taxes or such things are factored into the water bill)!
This assumes the bill actually matches the cost to produce and treat that amount of water.
Also, the utility presumably has had this policy of partial amnesty in place for some time. Thus, OP has, over time, been subsidizing other townsfolk with the occasional leaky toilet or similar. It's now OP's turn to benefit from this policy.
Semper Augustus

Jimmie
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Jimmie » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:54 am

I believe the term "leak" is confusing in this post. If the toilet flapper fails to seal the opening in the bottom of the tank, the water that fills the tank continues to run. To me this is not a "leak" since the water stays contained in the pipes. A leak would be indicated with water found on the floor. Maybe that's just me but I call it a poorly-operating valve.

I have changed dozens of flappers and float valves in toilets in my lifetime. The trigger to let me know to fix them is that they continue to run and never fill the tank. When this happens, without a full tank, there cannot be a full flush next time the toilet is used. The sound of a running toilet keeps me up at night. If the posts that include calculations are correct, one should expect to hear thousands and thousands of gallons of running water.

The OP never noticed anything like this over the course of six months?

neilpilot
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by neilpilot » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:01 am

Jimmie wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:54 am

The OP never noticed anything like this over the course of six months?
The OP did say "little used toilet". We have 4 toilets in our home, and 2 of the 4 are rarely used and in an area that is often not occupied for a month or more at a time. Easy to overlook.

brianH
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by brianH » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:03 am

Just be thankful you have public sewer and not a septic system. If 1600 g/day was emptying into your septic for months, you'd almost certainly have a failed field and probably other costly issues.

I, too, don't see why the water company should cut you a break for negligence, but if they do, that's a generous gift.

criticalmass
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by criticalmass » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:06 am

leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:16 am
spectec wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:58 am
I had a similar situation with excess water usage, except our bill was in the $2,500 range and the leak was outside, but on the "house" side of the meter. The first call to the water department simply resulted in someone coming out to check the meter, with a follow-up call to me saying "yep, the meter is working fine. You owe the bill." Typical bureaucratic customer no-service when the supplier is a government agency.

I called back and asked to speak to a supervisor, but of course no one was available. I then asked for the email address for someone in charge, which they gave me. I sent an email explaining the source of the problem and attaching a copy of the bill for the repair parts. (In my case I also had pictures showing the work being done, which I offered to show them). I was mainly seeking to have the sewer charge (60%) removed since I didn't dispute the supply charge. But about 3 weeks later someone called to tell me they were reducing my bill to my previous 12-month average.

Overall an excellent outcome, but only after a little persistence and some gentle persuasion. The entire process took about 2-1/2 months to resolve. YMMV
I don't understand why you think this was the water department's fault or that this was "customer no-service".
There was a leak on your property. Equipment you own was responsible. Water was wasted which has a cost to the community. Why was it their responsibility to identify the problem with your pipes? Why shouldn't you have had to pay the entire bill?
Town or private water company? It's reasonable for a provider to provide a one time adjustment to previous (pre-leak) usage to account for leaks, providing that the leak is proven repaired.

If a house catches on fire and the fire department uses 20,000+ gallons to fight the fire, should the homeowner receive a 20,000 gallon water bill after losing all of their possessions?

Our local water company loses far more than that every time there is a big main leak, or when they flush their pipes out via opening each fire hydrant into the street for hours. It's not unreasonable to waive customer bills for leak situations, provided that the leak is fixed as soon as the large bill notifies the customer of the problem.

Jimmie
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Jimmie » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:10 am

neilpilot wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:01 am
Jimmie wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:54 am

The OP never noticed anything like this over the course of six months?
The OP did say "little used toilet". We have 4 toilets in our home, and 2 of the 4 are rarely used and in an area that is often not occupied for a month or more at a time. Easy to overlook.
I did see that. This toilet appears to have been overlooked for six months. The risk of the water in the bowl evaporating exists. This risks compromising the internal "trap" function which prevents sewer gases from entering from the drain pipes.

If I went six months without using a toilet, I would either remove the toilet and cap off the drain or turn off the water supply, but set a reminder in my Outlook calendar to fill the bowl to maintain the trap. Or move to a house that has fewer bathrooms. :D

GrowthSeeker
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by GrowthSeeker » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:15 am

I have heard that some of the newer toilets that use a pressurized system of flushing can have the equivalent of a ball valve leak which occurs silently so there is no way to know it is happening until you get a water bill for $5,000.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you.

Jags4186
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Jags4186 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:41 am

On the bright side it is only a $10 fix that doesn’t require ripping up your yard to repair a broken pipe.

We had a flapper that didn’t seal properly—very mild but I noticed it get worse. Fortunately our water bill which is billed monthly only went from $30 to $100 before I fixed it.

Yinks
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Yinks » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:01 pm

Run a simple test.

Shower in the morning, then turn off the valves on all your toilets. Then read your water meter and leave the house for the day (the point is don't use water at home for this test).

Come back 8 to 12 hours later and read the water meter again. You'll get a sense if you still have a "leak". If you don't see the meter progress over the day then it's an issue inside your house. If it does progress, like other posters said, it's a "between the meter and your house" issue.

vested1
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by vested1 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:42 pm

I look at this from a different perspective, influenced by a family member who worked for a multi-State privately owned "water company" for 32 years, 15 of which were spent reading meters. I can't tell you how many times she was berated by customers, face to face, for a high bill caused by a leak on their own property that was either missed or ignored.

The best way to avoid high water bills is to periodically check for leaks. To do so you would shut off all faucets on your property, then go to the water meter and see if there is any ongoing usage on the meter. If a leaking toilet is suspected, turn off the supply valve to each toilet individually and check the meter after each toilet is shut off.

Everyone with a landline phone or wired internet from the property line to a router should understand that wiring defects beyond the property line are the responsibility of the tenet, not the supplier, and the same holds true for water, electrical, or natural gas delivery.

Do you want to see your water bill quadruple? If water suppliers who deliver to the property line were required to fix leaks on private property, rates would skyrocket, and since our area has the highest rates in the nation, I'd prefer to avoid that. IMHO the offer to reduce the OP's bill by 50% is generous, and shouldn't be considered a requirement, but rather, as stated, a courtesy. If a customer uses an extreme amount of water, especially when the supply is limited, it negatively affects the ability of the water supplier to maintain enough supply to deliver to all customers.

Please excuse the following rant:
For some reason, many think that because they pay their taxes that they should be held blameless for utility mishaps on their property (not the OP). This attitude carries through to all utilities, and is mainly due to lack of knowledge. I worked in telecom for 40 years and have witnessed the same phenomena over and over. In large part, we are all victims of our outrage at what we perceive to be evil monopolies which need to be broken up, with the aim to lower costs. That didn't work out too well in telecom, and it won't for water delivery or any other utility that requires massive infrastructure for that matter.

In our area a proposal to have the county take over the water supply passed in 2018. Those who voted for it assume their bill will go down if the takeover survives the courts, which is unlikely because taxpayers would have to buy out all of the infrastructure, which is estimated to be around 64k per household. In point of fact, the problem is lack of storage, which has been voted down repeatedly over the last several decades. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. I imagine that the same voters who passed this measure assume that any leaks on their property will now be the responsibility of the county to fix, rather than their own, and if they do use an inadvertent amount of water, the county will write it off.
Last edited by vested1 on Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PVW
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by PVW » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:47 pm

leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:09 am
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
I will also write to our County Council member about this situation--something like this could be catastrophic for someone without saving--and it can't be that uncommon.
You also stated
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
"The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage."
I think your town already has a generous policy in place. $2,500 of your usage is being paid for by local taxpayers (whether the burden falls on their property taxes or such things are factored into the water bill)!
The cost to produce and deliver the water is small. For water utilities, you are paying for the entire budget of the utility, in proportion to your usage. They have a lot of costs that are unrelated to the volume of water produced, such as debt service, infrastructure improvements, liabilities, etc. Anecdotally, I've heard that water utilities are terrible at tracking where their water goes and the billable volume is small compared to the produced volume.

I can see that the owner is still responsible for accidentally increasing their usage, but forgiving this bill is not increasing the burden on the other taxpayers.

criticalmass
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by criticalmass » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:58 pm

vested1 wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:42 pm
I look at this from a different perspective, influenced by a family member who worked for a multi-State privately owned "water company" for 32 years, 15 of which were spent reading meters. I can't tell you how many times she was berated by customers, face to face, for a high bill caused by a leak on their own property that was either missed or ignored.

The best way to avoid high water bills is to periodically check for leaks. To do so you would shut off all faucets on your property, then go to the water meter and see if there is any ongoing usage on the meter. If a leaking toilet is suspected, turn off the supply valve to each toilet individually and check the meter after each toilet is shut off.

Everyone with a landline phone or wired internet from the property line to a router should understand that wiring defects beyond the property line are the responsibility of the tenet, not the supplier, and the same holds true for water, electrical, or natural gas delivery.

Interesting. Where I've lived, the gas company is responsible for the service line between the street, under your property, all the way to the regulator where it enters the home. The homeowner is responsible for the water line starting at the main T, but excluding the meter and meter transponder. The power company is responsible for the wire on your property from the common street utility pole all the way to the meter, except you are responsible for the base the meter plugs into.
Do you want to see your water bill quadruple? If water suppliers who deliver to the property line were required to fix leaks on private property, rates would skyrocket, and since our area has the highest rates in the nation, I'd prefer to avoid that.
I don't think anybody is advocating for water suppliers to fix leaks on private property past the demarc, such as the leaking toilet in the original post. The only question is a one time waiver for sewage and water fees due to a leak, which was detected and repaired by the homeowner.
Last edited by criticalmass on Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

vested1
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by vested1 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:00 pm

PVW wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:47 pm
leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:09 am
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
I will also write to our County Council member about this situation--something like this could be catastrophic for someone without saving--and it can't be that uncommon.
You also stated
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
"The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage."
I think your town already has a generous policy in place. $2,500 of your usage is being paid for by local taxpayers (whether the burden falls on their property taxes or such things are factored into the water bill)!
The cost to produce and deliver the water is small. For water utilities, you are paying for the entire budget of the utility, in proportion to your usage. They have a lot of costs that are unrelated to the volume of water produced, such as debt service, infrastructure improvements, liabilities, etc. Anecdotally, I've heard that water utilities are terrible at tracking where their water goes and the billable volume is small compared to the produced volume.

I can see that the owner is still responsible for accidentally increasing their usage, but forgiving this bill is not increasing the burden on the other taxpayers.
Please provide data to support this statement (in bold). Leeks use of the word "taxpayer" could have the word "consumer" substituted to be more accurate, until the time when voters decide that they want uninformed amateurs to take over. Once that takes place the taxpayer is truly on the hook for the consequences.

vested1
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by vested1 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:17 pm

criticalmass wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:58 pm
vested1 wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:42 pm
I look at this from a different perspective, influenced by a family member who worked for a multi-State privately owned "water company" for 32 years, 15 of which were spent reading meters. I can't tell you how many times she was berated by customers, face to face, for a high bill caused by a leak on their own property that was either missed or ignored.

The best way to avoid high water bills is to periodically check for leaks. To do so you would shut off all faucets on your property, then go to the water meter and see if there is any ongoing usage on the meter. If a leaking toilet is suspected, turn off the supply valve to each toilet individually and check the meter after each toilet is shut off.

Everyone with a landline phone or wired internet from the property line to a router should understand that wiring defects beyond the property line are the responsibility of the tenet, not the supplier, and the same holds true for water, electrical, or natural gas delivery.

Interesting. Where I've lived, the gas company is responsible for the service line between the street, under your property, all the way to the regulator where it enters the home. The homeowner is responsible for the water line. The power company is responsible for the wire on your property from the common street utility pole all the way to the meter, except you are responsible for the base the meter plugs into.
Do you want to see your water bill quadruple? If water suppliers who deliver to the property line were required to fix leaks on private property, rates would skyrocket, and since our area has the highest rates in the nation, I'd prefer to avoid that.
I don't think anybody is advocating for water suppliers to fix leaks on private property past the demarc, such as the leaking toilet in the original post. The only question is a one time waiver for sewage and water fees due to a leak, which was detected fixed by the homeowner.
I stand corrected on electrical and gas, for the most part, depending where the meter is located. Many metropolitan areas in my State have meters at the curb for these utilities, mainly due to the high cost of repair and replacement on private property. I worked in the financial district of San Francisco, and I can tell you there is no case where a utility company would take the responsibility of drilling through a foundation wall under any circumstances. In short, it depends on where the meter is located.

On new construction the property owner bears the cost of infrastructure from the property line. If anything goes wrong with that infrastructure the owner is responsible to fix it. In the case of electrical cable or gas pipe, if the problem is on the customer's side of the meter the repair is completed at the cost of the owner. If the electrical cable or gas pipe is before the meter, but on private property, the utility will attempt to repair or replace it, but if they can't do so because of conditions on private property, such as a crushed conduit, they will require the owner to remedy that problem before proceeding.

Some people think that a utility easement granted by the landowner on private land means that the utility will fix any problem at no cost. This is likely true for aerial delivery, but not so for buried delivery in certain circumstances.

I apologize for expanding this discussion beyond what was intended by the OP however.

quantAndHold
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:26 pm

A leak that bad would be very noticeable. That toilet would need to be running, not just leaking a bit. An underground leak of that magnitude would be similarly noticeable. Do you know how to read your meter? We had a bill like that once. It turned out to be a misread meter.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.

furikake
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by furikake » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:53 pm

Do you have a teenager in the house? We have one, and our water bill had been high for a long time and we had no idea why because we already checked for leaks and there were none. Then I found out that she turned the water on for 30 minutes before hopping into the shower and she then showered for 1.5 hours at least. The hot water tank on her side of the house is right on top of her room, her water would get hot like within seconds, not 30 minutes. We imposed a fine on her, if she took more than 15 minutes total from turning on the water to finish showering. Our water bill magically went down the next month. :D

Laren
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Laren » Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:00 pm

While you're checking things, also be sure to check your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, sprinkler system, sinks, etc. for leaks. I had a water heater cost me about an $800 water bill - it was leaking, but somehow it managed to leak water down the tiny pipe for condensate instead of onto the floor. So there was no water on the floor for my leak detector to detect, but plenty of water was just going down the drain over time. Took me a little bit to figure out, but at least I got it replaced before it did leak water all over the basement.

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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by fru-gal » Tue Feb 26, 2019 4:00 pm

furikake wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:53 pm
Do you have a teenager in the house? We have one, and our water bill had been high for a long time and we had no idea why because we already checked for leaks and there were none. Then I found out that she turned the water on for 30 minutes before hopping into the shower and she then showered for 1.5 hours at least. The hot water tank on her side of the house is right on top of her room, her water would get hot like within seconds, not 30 minutes. We imposed a fine on her, if she took more than 15 minutes total from turning on the water to finish showering. Our water bill magically went down the next month. :D
I can see soaking in the bathtub for 1.5 hours, but what is she doing in the shower for that long? I would think her skin would come off.

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dodecahedron
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by dodecahedron » Tue Feb 26, 2019 4:09 pm

furikake wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:53 pm
Do you have a teenager in the house? We have one, and our water bill had been high for a long time and we had no idea why because we already checked for leaks and there were none. Then I found out that she turned the water on for 30 minutes before hopping into the shower and she then showered for 1.5 hours at least. The hot water tank on her side of the house is right on top of her room, her water would get hot like within seconds, not 30 minutes. We imposed a fine on her, if she took more than 15 minutes total from turning on the water to finish showering. Our water bill magically went down the next month. :D
I imagine your gas or oil bills for heating all that water also went down a whole lot too!

mrc
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by mrc » Tue Feb 26, 2019 4:11 pm

I have a booster pump to increase the pressure from the well pump and smooth out the fluctuations from the storage tank. It turns on with pressure, and off with flow. When it cycles and no one is in the shower or doing laundry, something is wrong.

So far, I found two leaky toilets (failed flappers) and one dripping hose bib (bad washer) that I probably wouldn't have known about for a long time otherwise.

There are whole house monitors, I know nothing about how well they work.

If you can read your own meter, you could check it once a week to look for abnormal usage. If you cannot read your meter, I wonder how you can be held liable for a 5-month spike. Seems it's only part your fault given the long time between reads.
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Starfish
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Starfish » Tue Feb 26, 2019 4:13 pm

leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:09 am
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
I will also write to our County Council member about this situation--something like this could be catastrophic for someone without saving--and it can't be that uncommon.
You also stated
workingfornow wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:21 am
"The water company has said they will give us a one-time “courtesy” adjustment of ½ of the excess above our highest ever water usage."
I think your town already has a generous policy in place. $2,500 of your usage is being paid for by local taxpayers (whether the burden falls on their property taxes or such things are factored into the water bill)!
The prices are bogus. There are calculated at 50$/household water bill. 2500$ is not the real price, and of course not 5000.
I wouldn't be surprise if the real cost of the water was 300$ and the rest is pure "profit".
On the other hand I don't know what good appealing will do. They have no incentive to offer anything.

suemarkp
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by suemarkp » Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:37 pm

It would also be better for the users of this water system to be billed more frequently. Water meters can be checked, but most are outside (at least here in western WA) and usually covered in dirt. The utility bill is your first sign of a problem. If they put some sort of transponder on your water meter so all the company has to do is drive by to read it, billing should be easy. Or, make your meter visible online so you can check it that way (but I think most people wont).

Our local water utility sent us a letter too that said "our reading of your meter indicates you have a continuous leak. Please check your system". Sure enough, I could see the meter turning when nothing was being used. Turned out to be a leaky toilet flapper. It was a slow leak though, because I flushed all the toilets and listened for the water to shut off and heard nothing. Ten minutes my son could her it (but I couldn't). Turned off the water supply and sure enough the tank was going down very slowly. This didn't cost much because the leak was slow. But the utility recognized the fact that continuous usage is not common and flagged it for us.
Mark | Kent, WA

Hockey10
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Hockey10 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:39 pm

If you have a toilet that is rarely used, why not close the shut-off valve to that toilet.

I am very sensitive to toilet problems as we had a flood in our house a few years ago due to the plastic nut breaking on the water supply line to a toilet. This caused about $14,000 of damage. :shock: :( :x

MarkerFM
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by MarkerFM » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:32 pm

Our condo has a FloLogic system, which monitors water flow and will shut off the water to the entire place if it senses either a long, slow flow (toilet or other slow leak) or a large sudden flow (catastrophic failure of a plumbing line). We have had a few false positives from too many showers and laundry, etc. at once, but it did pinpoint a leaking toilet flapper. Useful device.

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unclescrooge
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by unclescrooge » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:35 pm

MarkerFM wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:32 pm
Our condo has a FloLogic system, which monitors water flow and will shut off the water to the entire place if it senses either a long, slow flow (toilet or other slow leak) or a large sudden flow (catastrophic failure of a plumbing line). We have had a few false positives from too many showers and laundry, etc. at once, but it did pinpoint a leaking toilet flapper. Useful device.
How much did it cost to install?

retire2022
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by retire2022 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:51 pm

OP

My job for the NYC Depart of Housing was to post stickers (1986) "This property has been seized by the City of New York under the In-rem law", mostly for unpaid water bills, property taxes, unpaid violations.

If I were you I would serious seeking guidance through the local town, code enforcement or water department.

good luck

Smoke
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by Smoke » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:06 pm

On my water meter there is a small red star shaped spinner behind the glass.
If there is any water usage it will visibly turn.
If your meter has something like that, make sure all water is turned off in the house, and have a look at it.
If it's still turning, you need to recheck that everything is off.
If everything is off, there is an unknown leak.
Turn off the house water main (at the house) if it is still turning the leak is before it gets to you home.

Ask me how I know... :D

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Arguing for the sake of arguing is something I am not going to engage in.

fsrph
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by fsrph » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:14 pm

spectec wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:50 am
leeks wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:16 am
spectec wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:58 am
I had a similar situation with excess water usage, except our bill was in the $2,500 range and the leak was outside, but on the "house" side of the meter. The first call to the water department simply resulted in someone coming out to check the meter, with a follow-up call to me saying "yep, the meter is working fine. You owe the bill." Typical bureaucratic customer no-service when the supplier is a government agency.

I called back and asked to speak to a supervisor, but of course no one was available. I then asked for the email address for someone in charge, which they gave me. I sent an email explaining the source of the problem and attaching a copy of the bill for the repair parts. (In my case I also had pictures showing the work being done, which I offered to show them). I was mainly seeking to have the sewer charge (60%) removed since I didn't dispute the supply charge. But about 3 weeks later someone called to tell me they were reducing my bill to my previous 12-month average.

Overall an excellent outcome, but only after a little persistence and some gentle persuasion. The entire process took about 2-1/2 months to resolve. YMMV
I don't understand why you think this was the water department's fault or that this was "customer no-service".
There was a leak on your property. Equipment you own was responsible. Water was wasted which has a cost to the community. Why was it their responsibility to identify the problem with your pipes? Why shouldn't you have had to pay the entire bill?
Guess I need to spell it out. The "customer no-service" is the cookie-cutter methodology on the public-facing side. Customer has a problem; send out the crew to check the meter; then tell them everything's correct - you owe the bill.
That's exactly what the water company said to me. They'll send out a crew to shut off all the faucets and check if the flow indicator near the meter still spins.

If it is still spinning you have a leak and owe the bill.
If it's not spinning you used the water and owe the bill.

Frr
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brianH
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by brianH » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:15 pm

unclescrooge wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:35 pm
MarkerFM wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:32 pm
Our condo has a FloLogic system, which monitors water flow and will shut off the water to the entire place if it senses either a long, slow flow (toilet or other slow leak) or a large sudden flow (catastrophic failure of a plumbing line). We have had a few false positives from too many showers and laundry, etc. at once, but it did pinpoint a leaking toilet flapper. Useful device.
How much did it cost to install?
That device (FloLogic) and the Moen Flo mentioned earlier both mount almost exactly like a water pressure reducing valve (PRV), so it shouldn't take a competent plumber more than an hour to install. I'd figure on whatever your local rate is for a plumber to do a basic PRV install (not including the part), which is probably $200-$300 in HCOL areas. It looks like both devices require an outlet within a few feet to plug in the power adapter, so if there isn't one of those nearby, you'd also need that installed.

I'm seriously interested in that Moen Flo, but it's just a little too expensive. Insurance companies should help subsidize the cost of them, since that's probably one of the most common claims.

chuckb84
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by chuckb84 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:41 pm

Well, I sympathize, although the "leak" is on your private property which is your responsibility to maintain. I'm sure they'll ultimately reduce that bill substantially, if not as low as you would hope. Something similar happened to a friend here recently and they cut the bill by more than half.

I have no idea how things work in all jurisdictions, but where I live---in high desert with some of the highest water rates in the country---every water meter is online and there is a web page (and a phone app, including alarms) so you can monitor water usage on an hourly basis. I suspect/hope that similar systems will eventually be used everywhere.

eyeonwater.com

quantAndHold
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Re: $5000 water bill-Help!

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:47 pm

Just looping back. We had a water leak for 2 months that was bad enough that we had 2” of standing water on our deck and most of the backyard turned to mush, and our water bill only doubled. For it to be this high would be a faucet running somewhere. Have you read your meter and made sure that the meter reading was correct?
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.

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