How Sewer Bills Are Calculated and Why a Water Leak May Increase Your Sewer Bill

While most of us understand that a leaky faucet can increase a water bill, few of us realize that our sewer bill is also tied in to our water consumption. A water leak can increase our sewer bill significantly, and may remain at the higher rate long after the leak has been repaired.

How sewer bills are calculated

Sewer flows are not metered flows, which means your city’s utility services have to estimate how much waste water your home is producing. This estimate is determined in usually one of two ways.

In some communities, the sewer bill is calculated monthly and is based on a fixed percentage of your monthly water use, both inside your home and outside. In many other cities however, the sewer bill is determined by the average winter water use, the time of year when homeowners are not watering their lawns or using household water to fill pools or wash their cars. Based on the amount of water being used during these low usage months, the sewer district can estimate how much of that water will be going down the drain. The monthly usage fee the sewer company sets in the winter is the amount they will charge you for sewer use for the rest of the year.

If however, your home has developed a water leak during the crucial winter months when sewer rates are being determined, you can expect a higher sewer bill than usual for the upcoming year.

Calling the utility company for a recheck

Aside from a burst pipe or the obvious drip-drip-drip of an old faucet, most of us aren’t aware of water leaks until we get the next water bill in the mail. Hidden leaks originating from toilets or buried water lines can add up to thousands of gallons of wasted water in a month. Repairing the leak will bring the water consumption back to normal, but won’t automatically lower the sewer bill if the leak happened during the winter months.

To have the sewer bill reduced, the homeowner must call the Department of Public Works or the local sewer district, and ask for a reassessment of the water consumption. The homeowner should explain the nature of the leak and how it was repaired, and may have to furnish proof of the repair to the Public Works Department. Once Public Works can verify that the leak has been repaired, they will recalibrate the usage based on the prior year rate of consumption. In some cases, they may even credit your account back to the day of the repair which is a nice little bonus for any homeowner.

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