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8 Ways to Lower Your Water Bill

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Like many people, you may be wondering, “Why is my water bill so high?” There are numerous possible reasons for this, but before we dig into the average water bill, it’s important to understand a bit about water bills nationwide. Although the average water bill continues to rise year over year, the growth rate has actually slowed compared to years past.

How much you can expect to spend varies dramatically by the number of people in your home and your usage patterns, making it difficult to predict your monthly bill. Also, in many cities, sewer service and trash collection are rolled into your water bill. Still, for a family of four, the national average is $72.93  per month. Your bill may be higher or lower depending on where you live and how you use water.

Why is my water bill so high?

The first way to tackle how to save money on water bills is to look for familiar signs. Every home is different, but there are some common culprits for high water bills. Check for these problems first, as they can have a dramatic impact on your water bill.

  • Major leak: You will know pretty quickly if you have a major leak, since you’ll find water pouring out somewhere inside or outside your home. Broken pipes are the most common cause, but leaks can also happen if a new water heater or other appliance is improperly installed. Major leaks can run up your water bill fast, and can cause extensive damage. Turn off the water and call a plumber right away.
  • Slow leak: Slow leaks are harder to find, but they can drive up your water bill and may eventually become a bigger problem. If your toilet continues to run after flushing, you have a faucet or showerhead that constantly drips, or your outdoor irrigation system is making odd noises, you may have a slow leak. Depending on how handy you are, you may be able to find and fix a slow leak yourself.
  • Water heater leak: Over time, a leaking water heater can burst, putting your home at risk for expensive damage. A water heater leak drives up not only your water bill but also your power bill, as all that wasted water is heated. If you notice your water heater dripping or water pooling around it, call a plumber.
  • Usage fluctuations: Many times, a high water bill has a simple explanation that doesn’t indicate a problem. Are your kids home from school? Have you had house guests? Did you recently fill a swimming pool or a waterbed? If you get a surprisingly high bill one month, think about any recent changes that could have caused it. You may want to wait one more billing cycle to see if it goes back to normal.

8 ways to lower your water bill

Maybe you’ve ruled out the common causes, but you still don’t have a good answer for “Why is my water bill so high?” In this case, it probably has to do with your usage patterns. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower your water usage, ultimately bringing down your bill. Here’s how to reduce a water bill that is higher than you would like.

  • Cut back on showers: A long, hot shower can be a great way to relax, but you’re literally pouring money down the drain. The average household spends 20% of its water usage on showers, so cutting down the time you spend by just minutes can lower your water bill.
  • Use a low-flow showerhead: You can reduce your shower-related water bill even more by choosing a low-flow showerhead. Even if you spend exactly the same amount of time in the shower, you could use up to 50% less water in the process.
  • Run the dishwasher: Contrary to what you might expect, modern dishwashers are much more efficient than washing dishes by hand. An average cycle uses just six gallons of water total, while handwashing uses up to two gallons per minute.
  • Fill it up: Of course, doing small loads of dishes (or laundry!) wastes water if it means you’re running the appliance more frequently. If all you have is a small load, go ahead and run it. But avoid the urge to run the breakfast dishes separately from the dinner dishes. Whenever possible, do fewer and larger loads of dishes and laundry to get the most bang for your water bucks.
  • Turn off the faucet: There is no reason to keep the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving. Wet down your toothbrush or razor, turn the water off, and then turn it back on to rinse. Or better yet, fill a rinse cup or wet a face towel and use that instead of running water.
  • Keep a pitcher of cold water: If you don’t have a water dispenser on your refrigerator, keep a pitcher of fresh water inside. Not only will the water taste better if you choose a filtration pitcher, but you won’t have to run the water tap and wait for it to cool whenever you get thirsty.
  • Rethink your outdoor cleaning routine: It’s incredibly convenient to grab the hose every time your patio or driveway looks dirty. But you may be wasting upwards of 150 gallons of water each time. Instead, consider sweeping or raking as needed, saving the water for an occasional deep clean.
  • Pay attention when washing your car: Along the same lines, if you’re not paying attention, you can waste a lot of water when you wash your car. If  you don’t remember to turn off the water whenever you’re not actively rinsing the car, the answer to, “Why is my water bill so high” could be as simple as, “Because you’re pouring out 120 gallons of water during an average wash!”

The bottom line

Most of the time, a high water bill indicates either a problem that needs to be fixed or a pattern of usage that can be altered. Check for the most common issues first, and then see how you can take simple steps to reduce the amount of water you use.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my water bill is too high?

The national average water bill for a family of four is just over $70 per month, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s average for you. Unless your bill is huge, which generally indicates a major leak, it will take a few months for you to see a pattern in your bills. In the meantime, you can follow the steps above to bring it down.

Does flushing the toilet affect your water bill?

Flushing the toilet does increase your water bill, but by how much depends on the type of toilet you have. Older toilets used up to seven gallons per flush, while newer low-flow toilets use less than two gallons. If your toilet continually runs, this will also raise your water bill.

How can I reduce my water bill in an apartment?

If you’re trying to understand how to save on a water bill in an apartment, first have your landlord check for leaks that could be driving up the bill. If your apartment is leak-free, focus on simple behavioral changes such as turning off the water when brushing your teeth. Remember, every dollar of savings adds up over time.

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