Is my monthly bill wrong, do I have a leak?
The average monthly water use for a BCCWID customer is approximately 5,000 gallons. To promote conservation the State of Arizona through their regulatory agency, ADEQ, "highly recommended" water utilities implement a tiered billing structure a number of years ago. The District complied and consumption has substantially decreased making the District's water conservation goal a success. However, neither Conservation nor the owner/user's level of consumption is mandated. Each and every household has the ability to make their own personal choice regarding water use. While the District's tiered rate structure will significantly impact you if you choose non-desert vegetation (trees or grass requiring abundant irrigation) or a swimming pool, that is YOUR PERSONAL CHOICE.
If you have a question about your water bill/usage, the very first step is to call the water office: 623-374-9408. Management will schedule a re-read to confirm the reading. Errors, on occasion, do occur and if the re-read shows the reading LOWER, a new invoice can be generated, correcting the error. If, however, the reading is HIGHER it will confirm the usage and it may be time for you to start troubleshooting to determine what is causing your increase. Finding a leak requires a logical progression through options and a thorough inspection of pipes and attached appliances. Also keep in mind, there may be more than just one issue needing repair or resolution.
In some instances, it may be helpful to keep a daily log of your water usage to help figure out the amount of water flowing through the meter. You can take visual readings, even on the newer auto-read meters, recording all the digits (NOTE: Water bills are calculated by units of 1,000 only and do not include the hundreds or below). This type of log may be especially useful if there is any type of irrigation in use.
We hope the following troubleshooting guide will be informative and helpful to you. There may be more possibilities than what is discussed but this will, hopefully, be a good start to help you become "water wise". An informative pamphlet is also available, FREE, at the water office providing conservation and statistical information.
Simple procedure to locate a leak on your property:
More Detailed High Water Use and Leak Location Advice:
- Locate your meter box.
- Many houses have a master shut-off valve. Turn it off.
- If you have an irrigation system for plants and lawn, turn its master shut-off valve to off.
- Now look at the meter and see if the small white triangle is spinning.
- If it is moving at all you have a line leak on your property and it will have to be found and repaired. (Since our desert is very dry, there may not be any surface indication even when there is a massive leak. Outside pipes that are underground are occasionally cracked by vehicles driving over them).
- If the white triangle is not moving, turn on the master house valve and check again.
- If every water tap and connection is turned off in the house and the white triangle is moving now, no matter how slowly, you have a leak inside the house.
- If the meter is still not moving, turn on the master shut-off for any timed irrigation system. If it is not the time to be on and the meter starts spinning then there is something wrong with that system.
- Finding a leak requires logical progression through the options and a thorough inspection of pipes and attached appliances.
- Leaks are difficult to isolate and can severely impact your water bill if not repaired. A single tap left on continuously can delivery over 500 gallons/hour (In a day that would be 12,000 gallons and in a month that could be over 300,000 gallons). Your monthly water use can double, triple, or increase even more because of small leaks. Because of the District's tiered water rates your monthly billing will increase even more than the increased water use alone might suggest.
In some cases, it may be a hose left on accidentally, an increase in yard watering during an excessively HOT and DRY summer month, increased pool evaporation or an increase in extended-visitors adding to the "normal" daily household usage. These are examples of possible causes that may significantly increase water use, but not be the result of a leak.
Some of the most common leak problems start in the bathroom. Toilets are notorious for 1 of 2 things: The seal in the tank is not holding properly when in place. To test: place a few drops of food coloring in the tank & let sit for several hours. If the water in the bowl starts to show signs of the food dye, without being flushed, the seal is NOT holding and needs to be replaced. The flapper is not lowered completely when flushing (commonly caused by a kink in the chain). This problem can be intermittent making it especially hard to detect. Sometimes the kink frees itself, correcting the problem, unknown to you. It may occur the next time used or it may not occur again for a long time. If you hear water running when you walk into the bathroom, it is commonly this problem and if it has been hours or an entire day, a HUGE amount of water has gone into your septic system. Replacement parts are readily available at hardware stores and is relatively an easy home-owner fix at a minimal cost.
Faucets, be it in the bathroom, kitchen or outdoors, are another source to be checked - DRIPS need to be eliminated. Don't forget, faucets that drip, do so 24/7 and can really add up quickly increasing your water bill. Hoses with an operable handle/nozzle left "on" at the hose bibb have been known to rupture from our high summer temperatures. Hoses should ALWAYS be turned off at the hose bibb to prevent this disaster.
Some customers who have any of the following: Swamp/Evap Coolers; any type of reverse-osmosis systems, water softeners, or drip irrigation systems - ALL of these could cause minor or major increases. For example, floats on evap coolers may stick and don't shut off as designed. Reverse Osmosis filters bypass some water normally to the sewer system and when they fail can continuous bypass water. If any of these devices have timers, they need to be checked periodically as we have had a number of customers who have seen their timers malfunction after storms and power outages. Keep in mind, if a 20-minute timer does not shut off and is now continuous, it will consume an enormous amount of water. Drip systems, in addition to the timers are also plagued by critters who chew through tubing and all of a sudden the "drip" system you thought you had is now a "fountain" system. Feed lines and heads need to be checked periodically. Let's not forget to check out your water heater, including the tank itself, pipes and fittings. After receiving a high water bill, one customer also received a high gas bill (her hot water tank was leaking).
Now that we've explored the more typical culprits, let's look at your water lines. The District is responsible for the public water mains up to your meter. Anything after the meter is the homeowner's responsibility. There are a variety of materials for pipes, including but not limited to, plastic, galvanized, copper, polybutylene (a form of plastic used years ago but no longer in use today due to problems). A number of older mobile homes still have this piping but even custom homes with copper pipes are not immune to leaks. If there is a leak or break in a water line you may be able to isolate the location if you have shut-off valves. Typically, but not always, a customer has a customer shut-off valve in the meter box. In addition, you may also have a master shut-off valve for your house. Using these, follow the leak detection procedure given above. Remember plumbing lines located behind walls or under homes can make it extremely difficult to locate a problem and you may need to call a professional to assist you.