Sunday 15 August 2021

When Your Water Bill Causes Sticker Shock

Posted by at 1:09 AM

When you’ve lived somewhere for a while, you typically know what to expect from your water bill from month to month.  So, when you receive the sticker shock of an unexpectedly high bill, you might be wondering what’s going on.  There are several reasons why your water bill might be unusually high. 

Undetected Leaks

The average person in the United States uses approximately 80-100 gallons of water per day.  If your daily average seems way outside the norm, or it’s risen drastically from your regular household average, it’s a sure sign of an undetected leak.  Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to determine if you have an undetected leak by checking your water meter. 

  1. Turn off all sources of water at the tap to ensure there is no water in use.
  2. Check your water meter, usually found near the water heater or main shut-off valve.  If the red dial is still moving even though all the water is turned off, there is still water running somewhere in the home, indicating a leak. 
  3. Double-check that everything is turned off.  If you feel comfortable or have separate shut-off valves throughout the home, you can turn them off one at a time to determine the general location of the leak. 
  4. Call a professional plumber for help to locate the leak, if necessary, and to perform necessary repairs.

Common Causes

While it’s simple to determine if you have a leak, it can be less simple to find the source of the leak.  Some of the common causes of undetected leaks in homes are:

Dripping Sinks

A small drip from the sink doesn’t seem like it could use too much water, but dripping sinks are a big cause of elevated water bills.  It’s estimated that a single dripping faucet wastes around a gallon of water per day, which adds up in wasted water and higher water bills over time.

Overactive Ice Machines

Your refrigerator’s ice machine has a direct water line.  Sometimes this water line will malfunction, causing the refrigerator to draw more water than is needed, leading to leaks and running water.


Toilets are a very common source of undetected leaks because they have so many places where something minor can go wrong. Typical examples are leaking supply lines, leaking flappers, and leaking overflow pipes.

Hot Water Tanks

Hot water heaters are a very common source of undetected leaks because they’re typically located out of sight in basements or closets.  If you’ve determined that you have a leak somewhere in your home, check right away to see if there is water dripping down the side of the tank or collecting underneath it.

Appliance Connections

Like refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines have their own supply lines that are prone to leaking.  If you notice water on the floor around any of your appliances, check the supply lines to make sure they’re undamaged and the connections are still good. 

Outside Bibs and Faucets

Exterior bib and faucet leaks commonly go unnoticed simply because they’re outside.  Extreme temperatures can cause damage to bibs and faucets, causing leaks.  Additionally, automatic sprinklers can be a significant source of sticker shock for a water bill if the settings need adjusting.  Make sure your sprinklers are running only when they’re supposed to be, and turn them off when you don’t need them. 

If you’ve experienced the sticker shock of an unusually high water bill and suspect you have a leak in the house, don’t hesitate to call in a professional for help with plumbing repairs.  Small leaks and drips add up quickly and should be addressed right away.