Unexpected Causes of a High Water Bill

No one likes to get bills, but they’re a part of life, especially when you own a home. After a while, you become accustomed to it, and are able to keep track of how much you pay on average for things like electricity and water.

But what happens when your bill suddenly skyrockets, with no change in your monthly activity?

Some Families in Calgary are Receiving Unusually High Water Bills

This is what happened to several families in Calgary. The water bills they received were much higher than normal.

The Lalonde family received a bill that told them they had used thousands of dollars worth of water that month. They said this was impossible, as the reported number was 20 times their average water usage.

Verginia Ghobrial received a $3,800 water bill in May. She generally pays $100 a month, and her family had not changed their water usage at all.

In all the reported cases, a monthly bill skyrocketed from the low hundred dollar range up to the thousands, then back the next month. Investigations revealed no reasonable explanation as to where the water could have gone.

Enmax, the company that supplies and oversees water usage in Calgary, maintains that their bills are correct, though they’ll be looking into it further. This means that these families may be on the hook for thousands of dollars in water that wasn’t used.

Potential Causes of High Water Bills

Knight has not be consulted on these specific cases of high water bills, but we do have a lot of experience dealing with plumbing.

Some plumbing problems, if left unchecked, can lead to multiple litres of wasted water, which will show up on your next bill.

If you notice that your bill is higher than usual, and you haven’t changed your routine, you should investigate these potential causes.

1. Running and Leaking Toilets

Your toilet may be your greatest enemy when it comes to a high water bill. Depending on the toilet you have, it can use between 6 – 32 litres a flush. Over the course of a month, it accounts for over 25% of your indoor water use.

Tip: Newer toilets offer a much lower number of litres per flush. If you’re interested in purchasing a new toilet, we’ll be able to install it for you.

Unfortunately, we often have a ‘set it and forget it’ attitude about our toilets. Unless there’s an obvious problem, we don’t go looking.

We already know that a toilet uses a lot of water. Now imagine how much water it will waste if there’s an unchecked leak. Depending on the severity of the leak, your toilet could be wasting up to 330 litres a day. That’s the average daily water usage per person in Canada.

This really adds up, which is why we recommend checking your toilets for leaks frequently, particularly if you notice an increase in your water bill that doesn’t correlate with your routine.

There are a couple of ways to identify a toilet leak. Sometimes you’ll be able to hear it – it’ll sound a bit like a hiss. This could signal water running from the tank to the toilet.

If you suspect a leak, but are having trouble finding it, break out the food colouring. Put a few drops in the water tank. Wait 30 minutes and check the toilet bowl. Did the coloured water seep into the bowl? Then you have a leak.

Leaks are often caused by issues with the flappers, the fill tubes, or even unbalanced floats. The trick is knowing if it’s something easy to fix, or a bigger problem. Contact a professional, who will be able to help you find the problem.

2. Leaking Faucets

Leaking toilets aren’t the only cause of big bills. Leaking faucets are also contributors.

How many times have you heard that steadily annoying drip, drip, drip from your sink or bathtub? Besides getting on your nerves, it will actually get on your bill.

A faucet that leaks at a rate of 1 drip per second will waste up to 20 litres a day. This might not seem like much compared to a running toilet, but it will definitely pad your bill.

Leaking faucets often happen due to being improperly closed, or a washer that is worn out. If you’re turning the taps fully off, and the dripping still persists, a professional can come and replace your washer in no time.

Tip: It isn’t just indoor faucets that are causes of high water bills. Your outdoor tap can be just as much to blame. It could be even worse depending on how infrequently it is used. More often than not, your outdoor tap or hose will have some sort of leak while in use, a leak that doesn’t necessarily go away. If you notice a leak in your house, replace it immediately. If the leak is from your outdoor tap, use a bucket to catch the water until it can be fixed by a professional.

3. Underground Leaks

Underground leaks are much harder to detect by yourself. In fact, the way you’ll discover it is most likely from your water bill.

That’s why we recommend keeping track of how much water you use. Track how many times you flush, how many times you do the dishes, and how long your showers or baths are. It’s a little extra work, but it will help you catch anomalies in your bills.

If your routine hasn’t changed, but your bill is higher, this could be because of a break or a crack in one of the underground pipes leading to your house.

Unfortunately this is a more intensive problem that will require some time to fix, but you’ll be happy you found it sooner rather than later.

4. Seasonal or Occasional Increases in Consumption

Sometimes an increase in a bill isn’t plumbing related at all. It could all depend on activities.

In the summer, gardeners will see higher bills, particularly if the season is dry. The bigger your lawn or garden, the more water you’ll use.

This is also true of having visitors. You may have perfectly calculated how much water you and the other members of your household use each month, but visitors will make that number go up.

It is important to consider these factors before panicking about a higher than normal bill. Small increases can be attributed to these types of situations, or even something as simple as an extra load of laundry.

5. Changes in Pricing

All water utility rates in Calgary are set by the Water Utility Bylaws. It is important to check not only how much the rate is for the year, but your billing period. The number of days you are billed for will impact how much you pay.

For example, a 30 day billing period one month, followed up by a 31 day billing period the next month will have different figures.

You also need to be aware of how you’re getting billed. Some residential homes have a water metre that measures how much they use, while some homes just pay a flat rate.

6. Broken Metres

If your home is one with a water metre, that means you get charged for the amount of water the metre reports that you used. No more, no less.

This is all well and good until you run into a situation like the Calgary families reporting sky high bills. While in their cases the metres were thoroughly inspected and deemed working, yours might not be.

Faulty metres aren’t as common as leaks, but they are easy to check for. Once you have confirmed that you have no leaks in your home, stop using all water. Then, find a large container that can hold multiple litres of water.

Fill the container with an exact amount of water, and compare that number to your metre. If the metre is giving you a different number, than it is most likely giving false readings. The best way to remedy this situation is to call your water provider for a more thorough inspection.

We’ll Fix the Leaks, and Help Keep Your Bill Where It Should Be

The causes of high water bills can be stressful and take a lot of money out of your pocket. We can help stem the flow of water, and of bill increases, by fixing any and all leaks we find.

We don’t just stop leaks. We offer a range of plumbing services, all carried out by our team of highly-qualified professionals. Want to know more? Ask us for a quote and we’ll send you all the information you need.

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