Water Bill Breakdown: Understand Your Sacramento Water Bill and Save Money

blog-icon-plumbingYour water bill is a great diagnostic tool. It can tell you about where most of your water’s being used in the house and give you clues on how and where to cut back. It can also warn you of upcoming trouble and be a symptom of serious plumbing leaks.

Although it looks like we’re in better shape than we were last year, this is still a drought year in a drought-ridden state, and so water conservation matters. Time-of-use rates loom in the next year and many of our clients are looking to save money and water. Summer is a great time to build good habits, and good water-saving habits start by knowing how you use water. For that, there’s no better tool than your water bill. If you’re not sure where you put it, you can often find your water bill online through your supplier. Got it? Good! Let’s get to work.

Reading the Water Bill

There’s a great water bill diagram from Sacramento Suburban Water District, and we recommend taking a look at it. Yours may be a little different, but for our purposes, this is all we need for now. The first thing, obvious as it may sound, is to make sure the name, address, and date are correct on your bill. You don’t want to have someone else’s bill or end up double-billed by accident. Once you’re sure the information and date are correct, you can look at some numbers.

The Current Amount Due will tell you what you owe the supplier for this service cycle. It may not show you past months’ payments, though, and if that’s the case, you should write down the amount you pay every cycle, as well as the dates that payment covers. This is the first good bill habit to get into: you’ll be able to compare new bills to what you’ve paid in the past and spot the differences, troubleshooting problems faster and lowering your overall bill.

The meat-and-potatoes of the bill is the Meter section. This will tell you when your meter was read, how much water was used, and what you paid per gallon. If you noticed your bill was high this month, compare the gallons you used to that in previous months. Write down the gallons used — this is the second piece of information you need to keep note of every month. Depending on your provider and your household size, you may not pay by the gallon but instead a flat rate that changes by season.

Finally, there may be a graph accompanying the bill. This will give you a visual of how much water you used compared to the last year or so of water use. This can be a great tool to visually understand your water bill.

Lowering the Water Bill

It’s important to track your bill month-to-month and see whether it’s rising or lowering during certain times of the year. With one eye on the bill, you can start looking around for ways to cut back your water usage. Shorten showers, let the lawn die and plant succulents instead, and see if you can get your usage down even a little bit. It can be a fun game with family — see who can find ways to cut down on water use. Check out this water use calculator for other ways to cut back.

Of course, if it was that simple, everybody would do a better job. We use water for everything from our gardens to cleaning our dishes (did you know you can save water by hand-washing dishes?). And cutting back on water use means being constantly mindful. It’s worth it, though — not only is it the right thing to do for the environment, it’ll save you money in the long run and help your home operate more efficiently.

Many folks are on flat-rate payment plans for water, which means they pay a set amount each month no matter how much water they use. If you’re a flat-rater, you have less incentive to save water than others who pay by the gallon. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Flat-rate billing is often ended during times of drought. Reno, who finally ended their flat-rate water billing recently, is a great example of this. If that happens in Sacramento, you’ll have to change your habits or face very high water bills.

Diagnosing Trouble

If your water bills keeps climbing but your usage stays the same, you could be seeing the results of hidden leaks in the house or outside of it. A leaking water main could be the cause, as could something coming loose in the walls. A few dollars isn’t a drastic change, but if your bill climbs by $50 or more, you need to call a plumber to inspect the home.

Water usage can also increase as devices get older or start to fail. While it’s not too common, it’s possible for a dishwasher or washing machine to start gulping more water than usual as it becomes less effective. Whether you’re looking to replace an old device or just start fresh with new appliances, you should consider collecting rebates on water-saving toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers. Not only will you get money back by having a contractor install these devices, you’ll also save money every month on the water bill.

No matter what, there are two places to call when it comes to diagnosing troubles in your water bill. The first place is your supplier — and the second place is Bell Brothers.