Understanding my water bill?

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Hristo Botev
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Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

I've recently started trying to reduce my water consumption, by showering about every other day and more consistently taking "camper" showers when I do shower, and also things like not flushing after No. 1, being more careful about not having the water running when washing dishes, etc. Well, I'd like to be able to better understand how that reduced water consumption translates directly to savings on my water bill, and in an effort to do what Jacob calls "adulting," I thought I'd try to actually understand my water bill. Seems like that's not very easy to do, and I can use some help from you all. Here're the relevant sections from my last 2-month bill:

Image

Our water department's website has a page called "Understanding your water bill"; but presumably someone's inside joke was to provide no more detail on that page than having an arrow pointing to, e.g., the heading "Water Usage in Gallons," and then explaining that "This section shows your water usage in gallons." Funny stuff indeed.

So my main question is why "total usage" isn't simply the difference between "current read" and "previous read"; that's what all the various website said it should be when I googled around this morning. And my second question is how do I figure out how this "Sewer Service - Based On: Water Service" charge is calculated. (Also, I don't understand how my October '20 bill was EXACTLY the same, in total usage and in charges billed, to the penny, as my June '20 bill.)

Anyway, perhaps this is an issue specific to my particular water department (they've had a lot of problems, to say the least). But before I call the department and get told to quit asking questions, etc., I was hoping you all might be able to shed some light on this.

chenda
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by chenda »

I am guessing the meter units somehow translate to gallons...Yes they do - 132 is the difference which translates to 13200 gallons used...

sky
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by sky »

The difference between the August 11 read and the October 13 read is 132, so the meter apparently reads 100's of gallons, which would result in a toal usage of 13,200 gallons.

The method of calculation of Sewer Service is not stated. If it is a straight multiplier, then the sewer usage charge is 4.048 times the water usage charge. If you look at an old bill with a different usage, you could calculate whether they used the same multiplier. Or just call and ask how the sewer charge is calculated.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Thanks sky! (and chenda) That's it (and yes, I know I'm very, very slow when it comes to anything involving a calculator). Looking back at the past 4 bills (which is all we have for this house, it's definitely 100s of gallons, and the rate for figuring out the sewer usage charge is something like 1.134% of total usage.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Thu Dec 03, 2020 11:36 am, edited 3 times in total.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

So, it looks like for every 1,000 gallons we don't use, we'll save $11.34 in sewer usage and $3.04 in water usage, so $14.38.

So assuming 2.5 gallons per shower minute and an 8 minute shower, that's 20 gallons per shower (https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resourc ... ute-shower). And with one shower per day during a 61 day billing period, that's 1,220 gallons of water (per person). So by eliminating say 26 of those showers (roughly, showering only 4x/week instead of 7), that's 520 gallons saved. And, if for the remaining 35 showers I cut those from 8 minute showers to 2 minute showers (by doing camper showers), so I'm using just 5 gallons per shower, that's another 525 gallons saved, which gets us to a total of 1,045 gallons saved, equating to $14.38 in my pocket.

sky
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by sky »

The cost of heating water would also be reduced, increasing your savings.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Put another way, each 8 minute shower costs 29 cents; and each minute in the shower costs roughly 4 cents.

@Sky: True! (But that's a calculation for another day.)
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Thu Dec 03, 2020 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

Alphaville
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Alphaville »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:56 am
things like not flushing after No. 1, being more careful about not having the water running when washing dishes, etc.
i dont know paperwork but a couple of thoughts on this

i. thats an insane bill! eye popping (im out of apostrophes today. new keyboard.)

ii. dishwashing machines save water over washing by hand, and theyre very energy efficient if you avoid the heated settings. paul wheaton has a system for dishwashing efficiency and we tried it for a while and it was fine but then we went back to the machine. im okay with that but maybe check wheatons version

iii. okay more than a couple of thoughts. leftover bladderwater can quickly stink especially when hormones mix. plus leave unsightly marks and etc. so here we just piggyback our urinations :lol: then flush as a joint deposit. but the important notion for you: since youre staying put and retrofitting (i think), would you consider a greywater system for your th? because thats a better way to solve water waste and recycle nitrogen into the gardening operations. kidney juice is officially blackwater but one can get around that... you could also empty the liquids in a can and take it to the trees diluted with some water (some people resist this)

iv. lastly if you have any form of lawn thats probable the biggest offender

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

No lawn. I honestly don't know where all the usage is coming from. If you take my numbers above and multiply by 4, then you get to about 5K just in showers alone. And then if you add in 4 people flushing, dishwasher, cooking, washing machine, handwashing, and drinking water, I guess I can see how you get to 13,200 gallons in a 2-month period. According to the EPA apparently this is well below average for a family of 4 (https://askinglot.com/how-many-gallons- ... se-a-month; https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water; https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/fi ... the-us.pdf; https://www.epa.gov/watersense/statistics-and-facts). That seems crazy to me, as until recently we really didn't really think about water usage apart from turning the faucet off when we brushed our teeth.

Alphaville
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Alphaville »

oh it's for 2 months! lol i said i was bad at paperwork. ok that is much better, but still...

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Well, as always, I put our family's numbers out there so all the other forumites can feel a bit better about themselves.

Alphaville
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Alphaville »

do you have a giant washing machine, or do a lot of laundry?

old-school top loaders use about 40-50 gal per wash as i recall.

i wear merino clothes that don't require frequent washing, but ymmv. also i wash merino in a scrubba bag that's pricey in itself but superefficient with the water(you can just wash by hand in a small pan).

besides... kids play in the dirt and are filthier than adults and then need to be made presentable for the world, so don't beat yourself up too much about it.

also, replacing shower heads might be more efficient than showering in a hurry?

oh, and i finally found the apostrophes here. caps remain at large.

-

ps your water is cheap, it's the sewer that's murder. are they trying to incentivize septic?

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Ego
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Ego »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 11:13 am
Well, as always, I put our family's numbers out there so all the other forumites can feel a bit better about themselves.
I double checked the bill for our property for September when we had 52 tenants. It was $1270 or $24.42pp/pm. That includes landscape watering and three coin-op washers. We have an oversized boiler which provides literally unlimited hot water so I believe people are prone to long showers. I do not have access to the actual bills to determine usage but I believe our water costs here in SoCal are high. By law we must install low flow toilets, shower heads and faucets.

white belt
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by white belt »

Beyond the basics like tell people to use less water and use low-flow attachments on all spigots, another option to re-use water is to set up your washing machine with a T connector so you have the option to have it drain into your lawn or garden (although I think you mentioned you don't water either at the moment). There are numerous youtube tutorials on the project which seems relatively easy depending on where your machine is located: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNNnhCJGY38

You would have to ensure that your laundry detergent will not kill plant life. I imagine you could do the same thing with the dishwasher as well, but there don't seem to be as many youtube tutorials on that.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

Any chance you have a leak somewhere? If you have the kind of meter that shows use by the hour or day set up a period where everything is turned off and make sure water use is 0. Toilets can use a crazy amount of water with no noise, 1000s of gallons.

My house uses about 2500 gallons per person per month so not that different than yours. I suspect the main issue is that I take long showers because I start thinking about random stuff while I'm half asleep and forget to get out.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

We've had issues with leaks in the past, but the last time we had a plumber out we checked and confirmed we didn't have any then. Projects for this weekend are to buy low-flow shower heads for the 2 showers. The one in the master bath (that our kids are currently using) is one of those rain shower type ones, which I understand are pretty awful regarding water use. And given that DD in particular takes massively long showers, I suspect a big dent could be made simply by swapping out that shower head for a low-flow one. Another project will be to see if that bottle of sand in the toilet tank trick works for our toilets (i.e., will we have sufficient flushing pressure if we reduce the volume of the tank). Long term plan is we'll likely have to move the washer/dryer from the basement when we put a bathroom for DS down there. And in that process, perhaps we can work in some sort of greywater system for the washer (and maybe, just maybe, get rid of the dryer altogether). In the meantime I might try some sort of easy-to-implement greywater system, like just sticking a bucket underneath our bathroom sink and using that water to fill up our toilet.

In other news, I timed my camper shower this morning, and with shaving my face and my head, and with it taking 45 seconds for the water to warm up, the water was running for a total of 3 mins 15 seconds. So that's a total of 13 minutes/week (assuming 4 showers a week), and assuming 2.5gpm, that 32.5 gallons, which at our water rates works out to just shy of 50 cents for the week. And if I can get the shower head down to 1.5gpm, that'd be 19.5 gallons for the week, which works out to roughly 28 cents total.

Now, just need to get the rest of the family on board.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Speaking of which, can anyone recommend a good low-flow shower head, preferably one that you can adjust the flow with (e.g., from 1gpm, to 1.5, etc.)?

Alphaville
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Alphaville »

i'd suggest avoiding the ultramiser showerheads which can be downright annoying. sure, you can get there some day with proper kung-fu, but perhaps don't destroy the pleasure of a daily washing outright or you might get backlash.

personally, i do need a hot shower every night or i toss and turn all night. so for me it's about sleep quality really.

i used to have a misery shower head that came "free" with something, but replaced it for a moderate because it was just ridiculous trying to stand under that trickle.

so e.g. there are "rain" style water-saving shower heads that will cover a wide area-- just at a lower speed of water flow.

also a handheld shower can be more efficient as you can target inaccessible areas instead of trying to flood them from afar. no need to walk around with unrinsed parts.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Hristo Botev »

OK, can anyone recommend a good low-flow, hand-held shower head, with the ability to adjust the flow (i.e., with my shaved head I don't need much flow; DW will need more).

Alphaville
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Re: Understanding my water bill?

Post by Alphaville »

idk these days, but the crowds at lord bezos market emporium seem to say niagara?

https://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Conserva ... 605&sr=8-8

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