December 21st, 2012

planet

the missing gallons and my water bill saga

About once every 4-6 weeks or so, Marc and I open our mail. I know, seems like kind of a waste to have it delivered every day, doesn't it? We just put it in a big pile, unless it's something exciting like a package or christmas card or wedding-invite-looking thing.

Anyway we were going through it last month just before thanksgiving and I opened the water bill and put it in the official pile of papers that get kept for no real reason, but as I was setting it aside I noticed it was like $90. That seems kinda high. It's usually like $30, I think, or less... we don't usually water our lawn, have a high efficiency washer, don't own a pool, etc. The bill is set to auto-deduct from my bank account so I never think about it, it just goes... until it seemed high. It said we'd used a CRAZY amount of water in October... here's what the graph looked like:

Most every month: 1000-2000 gallons
June, when maybe we did water the lawn once: 3000 gallons
September: 5000 gallons - really high, but maybe we watered the lawn then too?
October: 15,000 gallons - okay WTF?!

I started googling. The opinion seemed to be that these things are caused by leaks, you just have to find out where. Walk around the basement and see if there's water coming in someplace. Put a couple drops of food coloring in the top of your toilet, set a timer for 15 minutes and when it goes off, see if the water in the bowl is blue, that means the toilet is leaking. Walk around the lawn and look for squishy spots.

Also, check the water meter. There's a little triangle that rotates when water is going through it.

The problem is that our triangle wasn't rotating (unless we flushed a toilet or whatever) and we couldn't find any leak. I noted the number on the water meter and checked it eight hours later, then 24 hours later. I grabbed a bill from a previous month (that's why we keep those!) and noted the beginning and ending readings during an "average" month to figure out how much the meter should change on an average day. And we were just average.

November's bill came in at 10,000 gallons - still some kind of leak, but it's like as soon as we saw the October bill and started monitoring the water meter, in late November it behaved itself! And now it's just normal every day. The numbers change a little bit.

So I'm completely stumped about what happened. I do remember that we were letting Josie play with the hose in the back yard with a spray nozzle at the end - the gun kind, with the trigger handle you have to squeeze for water to come out. And maybe we left the faucet on because with the attachment at the end of the hose you don't see water coming out the end unless you squeeze the trigger, although sometimes that makes water drip at the faucet. But you can hear in the house if the faucet is on, and even thought we would sometimes let it go for 24 hours or so we wouldn't have let it go all month.

I figured that an extra 13,000 gallons of water is like a gallon every three minutes. That's not a dripping faucet, that's like a faucet running. I'm totally confused. At least now I've learned a checklist of items to look for if you have a water leak, but who knows what happened from September-November with our water. We apparently started paying attention right at the moment when it stopped. Shoot.