What to do if you get a higher than expected water bill
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A few months ago, Sharon Harden received a water bill that was more than her typical monthly charge. For the next few months, the bills remained higher than usual. Then last month, according to her bill, Harden used almost 30,000 gallons of water at her Phoenix home. “That is absolutely ridiculous for a single person, 62 years old, living alone,” she said.
According to the City of Phoenix, the average person in the Valley uses about 120 gallons of water a day, adding up to about 3,600 gallons per month. That’s for both indoor and outdoor use.
“I want to know where it’s going or if there is some type of leak,” Harden said. “I’m very concerned I’m paying for someone else’s water.” So 3 On Your Side asked Donley AC and Plumbing to help us investigate. They checked the mainline to the house, the pipes inside, and the irrigation system. Donley’s team discovered two broken sprinkler heads, but no water was escaping from them. “At this point, we aren’t finding any leaks,” Mike Donley said.
A spokesperson for the Phoenix Water Services Department confirmed Harden’s bills did jump but said there are no errors with billing or the meter. They added the city does not investigate potential leaks on private property. “A customer’s water use depends on several factors, including how many people live in the home and the efficiency of their fixtures and appliances,” the city said in a statement. “The largest use of water is outdoor landscaping. Homes with large areas of landscaping do use more water. Oftentimes, water use can vary as the temperature drastically fluctuates in the spring.”
Harden agreed to cut back on outdoor water use to see how much of a difference it makes. If you want to make similar changes, the city recommends planting low-water-use plants and watching for signs of overwatering. They also say to adjust sprinkler heads so they don’t spray sidewalks, driveways, walls, or buildings, and mow regularly to keep the grass from obstructing the sprinklers.
Though there weren’t any leaks detected at Harden’s house, leaks are common and can waste a lot of water. “Our number one is in landscaping because most of the landscaping plumbing is plastic, and so it’s much easier to break or leak,” Donley said. “Usually, you’ll find it because you’ll have a muddy area or a soft area.”
Worn out toilet flappers and dripping faucets are also common causes of wasted water. According to the EPA, the average family can lose 180 gallons a week from household leaks. Check for leaks by watching your water meter when there’s no water running in the home. “If the water meter’s not moving, you probably don’t have a leak,” Donley said.
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