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Thursday, January 16, 2020

How are sewer bills calculated? Hint: Check your winter water usage

You may have wondered how on earth sewer usage is tracked. How does the city know how much water I send to the sewer system? I know I have a water meter, but do I have a sewer meter?

We’re here to answer those nagging questions and more. 

Do residents have sewer meters?

No. The city does not use sewer meters. Instead, drinking water usage is measured with water meters that can measure flows accurately. Once water is used, the drains from the sinks, showers and toilets funnel this dirty water by gravity to the sewer system. Sewer meters do exist, but they are very costly, so most cities use another method to accurately estimate sewer flows.

So how is sewer usage, and thereby sewer rates, calculated?

With your water meter! That’s because virtually all of the water you use inside your home goes down the drain. As a result, your indoor water use is a pretty accurate estimate of your sewer use during this time of year when there is no outdoor watering.

So how does outdoor water usage affect my sewer flows? Do I get charged for sewer usage when I water my lawn?

That’s where average winter consumption comes in.

An average resident uses two to three times as much water in the summer than they do in the winter because of outdoor watering. Outdoor water usage does not normally enter the sewer system and it would be unfair to charge people who use water outside more for sewer usage as well.

Indoor water usage, on the other hand, remains fairly constant throughout the year. So, to accurately charge for sewer usage throughout the year, the city calculates the average of your water use from the months of December, January and February when residents aren’t watering their yards.

Why is calculating the average consumption during this time important?

First, we know average winter consumption is everyone’s favorite topic (wink, wink). But more importantly, we are in the middle of the average winter consumption calculation period. The water you’re using now will affect your sewer bill for the rest of the year.

So, if you’ve noticed an increase in your water consumption on your bill, please take the time to check for any water leaks so you don’t keep paying for that leak for the next 12 months. The best place to start is in your bathroom. A leaking toilet can easily waste 100 gallons of water every day.

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