water bill

Do I Really Have a Water Leak?

Dear Round Rock Water Customer:

I wanted to provide you a courtesy message to let you know that you may have a water leak at your property. If you ever receive an alert from the City regarding abnormal water consumption, you might feel a sense of confusion or panic. Do not panic, everything will be okay! First, we recommend looking all around your property to locate the leak. (That means inside and outside.) We are calling a leak 24 hours of continuous water flow through the meter. So, sometimes leaks are easy to find and sometimes you realize that the water hose was left on! In some cases, you might be left scratching your head because you did not find any signs of leaks. Therefore, we alert you so that you aren’t confused looking at a high water bill. Leaks can be outside in the yard or underground, so just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there! What I mean by underground is that the line from the meter to your property can have a leak. Leaks can also occur in irrigation systems, pools, under foundations, and basically anything that uses water at your house.

Who is responsible?

There is some confusion about who the leak belongs to and who is responsible for fixing it. I completely understand the confusion because some people are not aware that private leaks that go through the meter are counted as consumption. If you are alerted of a leak it is important to check your water meter. If you are not sure if the leak is yours or the city’s, the easiest answer that question is to check the water meter. If the meter shows an alert or is reading a certain water flow (Gallons per minute), then that means the water has already passed through your property line. Look at the face of the meter; it is digital and shows the gallons per minute (gpm) going through the meter in the upper left of the meter face. If any of the numbers move or if an arrow symbol appears in the upper center square (where the red circle is on the meter face to the right), that means water is flowing through the meter. This means that you are paying for the water passing through the meter into your property.  The City is not responsible for finding or fixing leaks in private property.  Again, do not panic! In many cases, leaks can be an easy fix, like a toilet leak or a faucet. In the case that the leak is something you cannot fix, then you will have to hire a professional. That is why we try to alert people as soon as possible. The faster you can find and fix a water leak, the less expensive your water bill will be.

Will This Leak Effect My Water Bill?

I receive this question a lot, and it is understandable. If you are not intentionally using water, then it might be frustrating to have to pay for it. That is why we strongly recommend checking your water usage at your property regularly. To view your monthly, daily, or hourly water usage, register at our customer portal at www.RRTXwater.com.  (Please note you need your CID-account number to register.) You will be able to see an easy to read line graph that represents your water usage! This is a great way to keep an eye on your water usage and catch anything that looks abnormal. Many people have learned that their toilet refills for hours in the middle of the night. Many people also realize that their irrigation system runs in the middle of the day rather than at night. Some people might even be more conscious about their water habits after seeing how much water they use in a day. Catching leaks fast prevents not only high bills but water damage to your property!

If you do have water leak, you will most likely be contacted by us, but it is important to keep an eye out for anything that looks like a leak. Hopefully, this has settled some confusion regarding leaks on private property. Here is more information about leaks.

https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/utilities-and-environmental-services/water/water-leaks/

Your Water Bill, part 2

back of bill

I want to follow up on my last blog, Reading Your Water Bill, to see how much water you and the people in the property with you (a.k.a. your family), are using.  Have you done it yet?  To refresh your memory, it’s looking at the gallons of water being used, rather than just looking at the dollar amount.  On average here in Round Rock, a person uses 75 gallons per day.  How did your house compare?

So today, in addition to looking at the gallons, I want you to pull those bills out again and look in two other places that will offer you insight into what’s going on with your water bill and what’s going on around the City’s water department.

Now that you know where to find the gallons of water used, you should know WHEN these gallons were used.  Meaning, the billing dates.  A lot of times we hear remarks from customers saying there’s no way they used the water, or (sometimes) thinking the usage would be higher because of something that happened at their house.  It all depends on the dates the meter was read for the bill.  You can find those dates on the back of the bill.

Look at the top, middle of the back of the bill under the words “READ DATE.”  This tells you the “previous” and “current” reads, along with the dates.  This is the time period that you are being charged for.  The dates in the example are September 19, 2016, and October 19, 2016.  The 12,400 gallons of water used on this bill was for that month of mid-September to mid-October.

front of bill

Don’t be surprised if the dates on your bill are from over a month ago.  That’s the way it goes with water billing.  You are charged for what you use, after you use it (so we know how much to charge you for); and then it takes some time to create the bills and mail or send them all out.

If you are surprised by the amount of gallons of your bill, you can check those dates the bill is for and then look at your calendar (if you’re like me: the big paper calendar hanging in the kitchen with everyone’s activities on it!) or search your memory, or phone, to think about what was going on weather-wise or around your house at that time.  Did you have new sod installed and had to water it more?  Was the weather very rainy and you turned off the sprinklers for several weeks?  Did you have a toilet running for a few days?  These are all things to think about when looking at your water bill, as they all affect it.

Next, the second place to look is on the front of bill at the SPECIAL MESSAGE section.  On my example bill, this area is circled in green, and it’s empty!  No special messages this time.  However, it’s a good idea to glance here to find out what is going on the City.  Here’s where we’ll make a note about rate changes, waste water averaging, rain barrel sales, water rebates, and other interesting information.  You wouldn’t want to miss out on a great opportunity by not reading this section!

That’s it!  Thanks for learning about your water use!

 

Read Your Water Bill

front of water bill

I want to ask you a very important question: Do you read your water bill?  No, not just look to see how much you owe; but look at how many gallons you used during the last month?  No?  Not really even sure how?  Or what you’re looking at?  I understand!  I feel that way about my phone bill!!

In this blog I wanted to point out several things to start looking at on your water bill.  Maybe not every month, but at the very least each quarter or each season to check in and see how you are doing with your usage.  This may run long though, so I’m going to break it into a small series of things to look at on your bill.

Today I want to point out what I consider to be THE most important place to start looking at on your monthly bill, because you can’t save water if you don’t even know how much you’re using!  Right?  And then, you’re going to need to know if that amount is a high number or low one.  And what (or how much) is  a “normal” amount of water to use each month?

Of course, I have no exact answer about how much water is “normal.”  The answer depends on several factors, like the number of people in the house and their ages, the age of the home or the age of the appliances (like the toilets, dish and clothes washers, showerheads, and faucets), and whether your house has a water softener.  I’ll discuss this more at the end.

back of water bill

So look on the front of the bill at the little graph that shows the gallons of water used during each of the billing cycles for the last year (note: chances are the billing cycle is not for the entire month, it’s part of one month and part of another).  The x-axis (bottom) shows each month’s usage and the y-axis (vertical) indicates the gallons.  See the upper bill picture, I’ve circled the water use graph in red.  We measure the amount of water used each month in gallons—the same amount as a gallon jug of milk and you are billed by the thousand gallons used.

Another place to look at the amount of water used each month is the back of the bill.  Here is written the actual number of gallons used for the current bill.  See the bill at the bottom, I’ve circled that amount in orange.  The water bill says “total consumption in gallons” and then 12,400 is to the side.  That’s 12,400 gallons used this last billing cycle.

Now, many things can determine how much this number will be, as I’ve already listed a lot of those variables–number of people in the house, age of house and appliances, etc.  I will tell you that here in Round Rock, our average winter bill is for 5,868 gallons and our average summer bill is for 12,252 gallons.  How does yours stack up?

Also on average, we here in Round Rock use 75 gallons of water per person, per day.  Of course, this is average because a baby isn’t going to use that much, yet a teenager may use more!  You could make it easy for yourself and say each person in your home uses 100 gallons each day.  The average billing cycle is 30 days, so that would be 3000 gallons for each person each month.  If you have 2 people in your house that would be 6,000 gallons for your water use would be “normal” or expected.

This number can be greatly reduced by installing low water use (or efficient) fixtures, especially toilets and showerheads since they are used the most and the most often (multiple times a day).  Don’t forget the City has a rebate program for water efficient toilets and clothes washers.  Find out those details at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation   If there was any one thing you wanted to do to reduce the amount of water in your home, I would say replace your toilets.  If your home was built before 2000, I would replace the toilets with newer WaterSense models.  This allows you to save water without changing anything, you’ll still flush the same way.

I will say those efficient appliances really do make a difference.  My family of 4 (2 teenagers and 2 adults) uses right at 3,000 of water each month for all of us.  We installed new WaterSense toilets, showerheads, and a Energy Star dishwasher when we moved in 2 years ago.  Our house was built in 1999.  We don’t have a water softener.  We do have an irrigation system (that’s turn off currently!).  The clothes washer is a front loader that’s about 6 years old.  We do use them all several times each week!  It really is possible to reduce your consumption without it being a chore.

Now pull out those bills and take a look!  Next time I’ll point out a couple more places to look on the bill.

 

My water bill is how much??

I know I have heard this too many times this summer,faucet-with-dollar-sign-234x300 “there’s NO WAY I used this much water!”  “It’s impossible!”  “The meter must be wrong,” or some version of  “the City isn’t really reading the meters, but estimating.”  Well, let me tell you, it IS possible to use a lot of water (I’m talking 30,000 gallons, 50,000 gallons, 70,000 gallons…or more!).  I’ve seen it.  A lot.  I have seen it due to leaks, or from sprinkler systems, but I’ve never seen it from someone stealing water from their neighbor!  (ha!  People say that a lot too.)

I say this with 15 years of experience behind me doing this type of work.  So, not just this year, but over many years of looking
at sprinkler systems and how they are set and reading water meters.  I still get surprised that people are surprised to find out that high water use is possible and the City ISN’T wrong.  We just really use more water than we realize we do, especially when it comes to sprinkler systems.  This really boils down to an education problem.

When we receive our bill, we automatically look at how much we owe, right?!?  I know I do.  That’s what really affects me anyway, how much do I owe the City?  What we really need to look at is what’s included in that final cost AND actually look at the gallons of water that we used.  That will tell you much more than the amount you owe.

On Round Rock’s water bill, what’s also included in that cost (besides the water), is wastewater (sewer) charges, garwater use chartbage and recycling collection, stormwater (or drainage) fees, and taxes.  The water portion of the cost is maybe less than half of what the actual amount is you owe.

Look at that little graph. That shows you the gallons of water your household has used that month, and the past several months.  It’s also under the “water” section of the bill on the back.  That’s a better way to judge how much water you are using each month.  [Of note, a very average amount of water used each month is 2,000 gallons per person, per month.  Again, that’s pretty average.]  If you are using more than that for your family, you may check toil
ets for leaks, or consider replacing any old toilets with new, efficient ones (remember, the City has a rebate for that), and bring your water use down.

Also, the graph should, ideally, be shaped like the one in picture, that’s what we expect to see.  It’s a bell curve:  Low use in the winter, a little higher in spring, peaking–the highest–in summer with the highest month usually August or September, then lower in fall and back to lowest in winter.  That’s a water use curve that is expected and means you are paying attention to the seasons, and the weather patterns and not using water outdoors when not needed (winter).

The water rates will go up, so just looking at the dollar amount isn’t always helpful, or provides any insight to what you’re using.  I challenge you to look at your bill in more detail this month!