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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.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
mela_chan
Dec. 21st, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think the city adds to your charges, based on some random formula or maybe when they do work in the area. We have the same problem, with no actual monitoring. We'll randomly get a bill where the water usage is insanely high for us, then over the next month or two it drops back to normal. And in talking with our neighbors, we've discovered they see the same thing, usually the same time that we do. We've also noticed we get a spike whenever they work on the water mains in our area, or flush the hydrants. We had the main line into our house break last fall, run for about 5 hours before the water was shut off (I'd have to go look up the number, but it was ridiculous), and in September or October we got a bill that my husband said came really close to the amount of water we used when the main broke. We don't have a sprinkler system, we watered the lawn a few times in July and August, and as far as we can tell we were using an average amount of water. We had the meter replaced when we moved in two years ago because the previous owners broke it shutting it off before our inspection (so we couldn't check the faucets or the toilets, all of which ran or leaked when we moved in). We've got one toilet that runs if you don't lift the handle, but it's rarely used.

My husband and I have talked about trying to monitor our water usage to make sure we're accurately charged, but I don't think you can see any numbers on the meter (easily) and since they're electronic the city can just jump them around as they please. :\
shesingsnow
Dec. 22nd, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC)
Sometimes our local water company does an estimate bill and sends that out. So, it'd be worth a call to find out what's happening, if it's based on an actual meter reading.
that6tall2girl
Dec. 23rd, 2012 04:23 am (UTC)
One of the properties we used to manage once had a water main leak AFTER the meter. They got a $12K water bill one month and everyone damn near had a heart attack.

Did you do a massive amount of laundry or something that month? Fill up a kiddie pool? Have construction done? Our bill is usually a total of about $65 a month, and that's for two apartments plus us. That kind of usage seems extreme if it's just the three of you. Yikes!

Edited at 2012-12-23 04:25 am (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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