Author Topic: Let's chat about our water bills  (Read 5664 times)

Manguy888

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Let's chat about our water bills
« on: February 17, 2016, 12:18:29 PM »
Inspired by this site and its community, I've started taking a closer look at my bills to be more efficient in my life.

Electricity and gas were pretty easy - I've made huge gains in almost no time.

Water is a different story. I get billed quarterly, and it's always around $90-100 each time. Looking at it closely, I'm seeing there there is a $75 flat fee for my service in each bill.

This means that the water cost - the cost that I can control, is a measly $15-25. It appears to operate on two levels - making my bills fairly high, but my incentive to save water fairly low. If I cut my water bill in half (which probably isn't feasible), my bill would go from 100 dollars to...$88?

A more achievable gain, 10-15% efficiency, would almost be a rounding error on my bill.

I guess my question is - do all water bills work this way? or do they vary greatly based on location (I'm in RI). I'm curious to hear about others' bills.

TheAnonOne

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2016, 12:36:17 PM »
Inspired by this site and its community, I've started taking a closer look at my bills to be more efficient in my life.

Electricity and gas were pretty easy - I've made huge gains in almost no time.

Water is a different story. I get billed quarterly, and it's always around $90-100 each time. Looking at it closely, I'm seeing there there is a $75 flat fee for my service in each bill.

This means that the water cost - the cost that I can control, is a measly $15-25. It appears to operate on two levels - making my bills fairly high, but my incentive to save water fairly low. If I cut my water bill in half (which probably isn't feasible), my bill would go from 100 dollars to...$88?

A more achievable gain, 10-15% efficiency, would almost be a rounding error on my bill.

I guess my question is - do all water bills work this way? or do they vary greatly based on location (I'm in RI). I'm curious to hear about others' bills.

Ours are somewhat similar... I can't remember the water one exactly but...

For instance on our gas bill, the lowest it could be would be $10-15 a month due to the fees. During the summer, our bill is basically at the fee, and in the winter it shoots up a bunch due to heat...

It sounds like, you are already using a very low amount of water.... (for the price) Use more I guess.... :)

KCM5

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2016, 12:44:57 PM »
Ours is similar with a twist.

We're billed monthly and about $33 of the $55 bill is fixed costs (billed for trash/recycling, water hookup, stormwater, and sewage hookup). Our bill is variable on water usage which has a water and a sewage charge.

But our water is billed in 100 cubic foot increments. We use 300 cubic feet (2244 gallons) most months unless we water the garden a lot. So even if we reduced our usage 50% we'd still be billed for 200 cubic feet and save about $7 on the bill.

I do my best to conserve, but it's not for money purposes.

Also, we live in the midwest and get our water from rivers, so I don't feel guilty like I do if I'm visiting the Southwest or even a place where they get water from aquifers.

bacchi

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2016, 12:48:09 PM »
That is a high connection fee. At 1600 gallons/month, my water bill is currently 50% flat fee and 50% usage costs. When the summer hits, the flat fee will become almost inconsequential.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2016, 12:53:53 PM »
Our water bill is about $70 each month. (This is water, wastewater, and sewage.)  Sometimes it is about $78.

The $70 bill is for 1 unit of water. It is not possible to go any lower.  The higher bill is for the months we use 2 units.

And it is projected to go up 4% a year for the next 8 years.  Our city is growing too fast and needs more infrastructure. It has to be paid for somehow.

After seeing what happened in Flint though, I'm not inclined to be upset at what it is costing us, because the city is doing this to keep the water accessible to the whole city, and SAFE.


What really bothers me is the gas bill. We have a $10 delivery fee. Even in months where nothing is delivered. Sometimes I turn the fireplace on in July just because I have to pay for the damn gas anyway. (Only our furnace and fireplaces are gas.)

Kaydedid

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2016, 01:04:44 PM »
Ours is similar in WI.  Our bills run around $150/quarter, and $112 of that is a flat fee.  They jacked up the rates in the last few years due to recovering from a decade of elected-official mismanagement. 

Mongoose

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2016, 01:14:36 PM »
We, and our neighbors, run about $65 a month for water/sewer/garbage. I think $45 of that is the minimum (no usage). We use about 2200 gallons (household and business combined). I can't see getting it down much...and cutting it to zero wouldn't cut the bill in half.

GuitarStv

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2016, 01:20:15 PM »
Charging a flat fee like that is a disincentive to save.  Which is exactly what the utility wants . . . the less that you save, the more money they end up making.  Why would they ever change a system that's working perfectly for them?

robartsd

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2016, 01:36:28 PM »
I think water rates can vary quite a bit even between closeby juristictions in the same region. I personnally have not ever paid a water bill (so far has always been handled by roommates or landlord for me). In the city where I went to university, I learned from the landlord that the sewer rates (paid every month) were determined by the metered water in winter months (minimal landscape usage), so he encourage especially careful usage of water then. Many areas chare more per unit for heavy users than light users. For most moderate or light users of municiple water, the incentives for saving water are much more enviornmental than economic.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2016, 01:47:22 PM »
I think water rates can vary quite a bit even between closeby juristictions in the same region.

Oh man they can!  I moved to my city knowing that the property taxes are a bit lower than where I lived before (3 miles away).  My water bill used to be $30 a month!

Inaya

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2016, 01:50:16 PM »
Our water bill is about $70 each month. (This is water, wastewater, and sewage.)  Sometimes it is about $78.

The $70 bill is for 1 unit of water. It is not possible to go any lower.  The higher bill is for the months we use 2 units.

And it is projected to go up 4% a year for the next 8 years.  Our city is growing too fast and needs more infrastructure. It has to be paid for somehow.

After seeing what happened in Flint though, I'm not inclined to be upset at what it is costing us, because the city is doing this to keep the water accessible to the whole city, and SAFE.


What really bothers me is the gas bill. We have a $10 delivery fee. Even in months where nothing is delivered. Sometimes I turn the fireplace on in July just because I have to pay for the damn gas anyway. (Only our furnace and fireplaces are gas.)


Can you call your gas carrier and have them put a hold on your account for those months? The last place I had with gas, I was able to put my account on hold the entire year I lived there (electric heat) and pay $5 per month. It's still money spent for no reason, but it would still be 50% savings for you!

Jack

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2016, 01:54:26 PM »
But our water is billed in 100 cubic foot increments. We use 300 cubic feet (2244 gallons) most months unless we water the garden a lot. So even if we reduced our usage 50% we'd still be billed for 200 cubic feet and save about $7 on the bill.

Having the bill rounded to whole-number CCFs is annoying, but in the long run it doesn't matter. The bill is actually based on the actual meter reading, not the (rounded) incremental usage. For example, say you actually use 150 cubic feet per month and your meter reading is 10 at the beginning of the period. After the first month, your meter reading will be 11 (actually 11.5) and you'll get billed for 1 CCF, then the next month your meter reading will be 13 and you'll get billed for 2 CCFs.



Atlanta's water is some of the most expensive in the country (I guess Flint might be worse now) because the Federal courts forced the city to spend $4 billion dollars to fix the sewers so that they'd quit overflowing raw sewage into the rivers every time it rained. To pay for it, after the consent decree the water rates increased 12%+ per year for several years running.

The base charge is $13.12/month, then the first three CCFs are $12.32 each, then CCFs 4 - 6 are $18.98 each, then CCFs 7 and above are $21.85 each.

My typical usage tends to vary between 3 and 4 CCFs, so my bill is usually either or $50.08 or $69.06. The scary thing is that (I'm told) the average residential usage is something like 8 CCFs, so the average water bill here is $150 per month!

I think water rates can vary quite a bit even between closeby juristictions in the same region.

Yep. Water rates in the metro Atlanta suburbs are much lower because they haven't been sued (yet). Well, except for Dekalb County -- they've got a $1.5 billion consent decree to deal with now, so their rates are in the process of being increased. I don't know if Cobb and Gwinnett have handled their infrastructure better, or if they're spared because many of the folks out there are still on septic systems, or if they're just next in Chattahoochee Riverkeeper's crosshairs.



The water bill doesn't bother me much though, since it is mostly based on usage. What bothers me is the damn trash pickup bill, which is a flat fee (based on the width of my lot, of all things!) regardless of how much (or how little) I throw out and is something like $45/month!
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 02:09:55 PM by Jack »

PhrugalPhan

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2016, 02:05:14 PM »
My quarterly bill is always less than $40 (water / sewage).  Though to be fair I live by myself and I shower at the gym at work, so my water needs are very minimal.  I forget what the 0 usage amount would be, probably close to $30 / quarter.

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2016, 02:23:55 PM »


What really bothers me is the gas bill. We have a $10 delivery fee. Even in months where nothing is delivered. Sometimes I turn the fireplace on in July just because I have to pay for the damn gas anyway. (Only our furnace and fireplaces are gas.)


Can you call your gas carrier and have them put a hold on your account for those months? The last place I had with gas, I was able to put my account on hold the entire year I lived there (electric heat) and pay $5 per month. It's still money spent for no reason, but it would still be 50% savings for you!

I could- but I have to pay a reconnect fee each year, and that costs $100.  Since there are usually only 6 or 8 months a year that we don't use some heat, that would cost more. It's just annoying they call it a delivery fee. What did they deliver?

having the bill rounded to whole-number CCFs is annoying, but in the long run it doesn't matter. The bill is actually based on the actual meter reading, not the (rounded) incremental usage.

It does if you usually use less than 1 unit. They aren't ever going to even it out by sending you a 0 unit bill.



Quote
The water bill doesn't bother me much though, since it is mostly based on usage. What bothers me is the damn trash pickup bill, which is a flat fee (based on the width of my lot, of all things!) regardless of how much (or how little) I throw out and is something like $45/month!
My last city let you pick between a big trash can or a little one.  The little one was what our rate used to be, the big one more than that.  The little trash can was still huge.

My current city you can pay a yearly fee or use bag tags. 104 tags is the same as the annual fee, and if you don't want to tag each bag individually, you can put 2 tags onto your garbage can. Since it breaks even to 1 year of garbage sticker- if you're willing to do that you can save money by not paying for the weeks you are on vacation. (Or like us only put your can out every 3 weeks, but I think that's unrealistic for a lot of people.)
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 02:58:25 PM by iowajes »

Iron Mike Sharpe

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2016, 02:34:31 PM »
My water/sewer bill has a flat fee + usage. 

I get charged every other month with bills in the $28 - $30 range ($14 or $15 a month).

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2016, 02:38:18 PM »
Water bills definitely vary based on location. At my first house, I paid $30 a month for water/sewer. My bill was consistently the minimum usage rate.

Now I unfortunately don't have sewer service which means that it costs ~$500 to empty the septic tank every 5 years or so. (The exact cost is still TBD because we've only lived here for 3.5 years.) Our water bill is $15/month which is the minimum use rate. I'm surprised that we've never paid more than the minimum rate because we don't make a concentrated effort to conserve water. We're two adults averaging 11 showers, a load of laundry and a load or two of dishes every week and have never had to worry about the water bill.

Jack

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2016, 02:58:49 PM »
having the bill rounded to whole-number CCFs is annoying, but in the long run it doesn't matter. The bill is actually based on the actual meter reading, not the (rounded) incremental usage.

It does if you usually use less than 1 unit. They aren't ever going to even it out by sending you a 0 unit bill.

Wouldn't they? A zero-unit bill (but still including any base charges) is exactly what I would expect!

Quote
The water bill doesn't bother me much though, since it is mostly based on usage. What bothers me is the damn trash pickup bill, which is a flat fee (based on the width of my lot, of all things!) regardless of how much (or how little) I throw out and is something like $45/month!
My last city let you pick between a big trash can or a little one.  The little one was what our rate used to be, the big one more than that.  The little trash can was still huge.

My current city you can pay a yearly fee or use bag tags. 104 tags is the same as the annual fee, and if you don't want to tag each bag individually, you can put 2 tags onto your garbage can. Since it breaks even to 1 year of garbage sticker- if you're willing to do that you can save money by not paying for the weeks you are on vacation. (Or like us only put your can out every 3 weeks, but I think that's unrealistic for a lot of people.)

Yeah, I've been meaning to start a campaign to lobby city council to come up with a better (usage-based) system. One of the more on-the-ball nearby suburbs has a reasonable one that could be used as an example.

Tami1982

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2016, 03:09:06 PM »
My water bill is usually $32-$34 and the fee just to have water is $25 and change. 

seattlecyclone

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2016, 03:19:59 PM »
Yeah, I hate the flat fees. Imagine how good it would be for the environment if all utilities eliminated these fees and increased the per-unit cost by just enough that their total revenue remained the same!

Our most recent water/sewer bill for two months was $26.51 fixed and $187.93 usage-based. We did just have a baby, are using cloth diapers, and the extra laundry has nearly tripled our water usage compared to the year-ago period. That's like $60/month on just the water for baby laundry!

pdxbator

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2016, 03:25:42 PM »
Jealous of you all

Here in rainy Portland, Oregon where we have a ton of water general water costs per house per quarter are usually around $250. That does include sewer too.

Because we get so much water our sewage was occasionally going straight to the rivers. Yuck! They built a big pipe to solve all this but it cost a billion or more. Ouch! Now the rate payers are having to pay it.

tetlee

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #20 on: February 17, 2016, 04:16:11 PM »
After reading this I went and looked at our bill and noticed something odd.

Monthly Service Charge 15.70
Usage in Hundreds of Gallons: 38
Consumption charges 6.80

Wastewater Monthly Service Charge 14.00
Wastewater Usage Amount - 63.00 @ $0.184 11.59

So they are charging us for taking away nearly double the water we actually use! (I live in AZ so it isnt rain water).

I just called up and asked what is going on, apparently because we only moved in last year they are billing us for the average usage. After a year they will recalculate that and drop the amount BUT they wont refund us for being overcharged!

sol

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2016, 04:49:04 PM »
So they are charging us for taking away nearly double the water we actually use! (I live in AZ so it isnt rain water).

In some jurisdictions they charge you a stormwater fee based on the assumed area of impermeable surfaces on your property.  Lots of roof and driveway means you route lots of storm water to the sewer system, so they charge you for it.

My water bill has a $25/mo connection fee and a $5/mo hydrant fee, then water is between two and three dollars per CCF (748 gallons).  My family of five uses about 4.2 CCF/mo in the winter and >50 CCF at the peak of summer irrigation season, with a running average of 11.8 CCF/mo over the past 18 months. Averages out to 58 gallons per day per person annually, but 37of that is outdoor irrigation for just 5 months of the year.  Yay for spreadsheets.

Our water bill bounces between about 75 and 175 dollars billed bimonthly, or 36 to 87 dollars per month including the connection fees of about $30.

The lesson I take from this is that the only real cost savings on water come from reducing your irrigation usage.  Don't water your lawn or vegetables.  Restricting everyone in the family to 5 minute showers would be far less helpful than letting my back yard go brown.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 04:52:05 PM by sol »

Mtngrl

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2016, 05:08:10 PM »
Our water bill is $79 a month before we use a drop. Our bill averages between $88 and $90 -- we're fiends about conserving. Water only, no sewer, but we live on top of a mesa in a high desert -- I suspect the cost of building the water lines up to us contribute to that high cost. To balance it out, our gas and electric bills are pretty reasonable.

MrSal

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Re: Let's chat about our water bills
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2016, 05:18:50 PM »
MY water bill is about 26 dollars per month. (80 bucks a quarter)

Last quarter we used 6 thousand gallons. Water was 19.80 (for the whole quarter) dollars while the rest was towards sewer costs (paid according to yuour water consumption).

From the looks of it we have no fixed fees/costs