Water bills are increasing. Here’s what to do about it.

Water bills are increasing.  Here's what to do about it.

Scorching temperatures over much of the country make cool showers tempting. But beware the water bill.

Average water and sewer bills – often lumped together – have increased by nearly 50 percent in the last decade bluefield research, a consulting firm, and it is expected to continue to grow. Rates vary, but nationally the average monthly water bill was about $49 last year, up from $32 in 2012. (The number is based on the average monthly household water use in the 50 largest US cities.)

Inflation is one reason for this increase, along with supply chain disruptions and the cost of replacing old pipes and equipment, said Charlie Suese, an analyst with Bluefields. Some cities delayed raising rates during the pandemic and are now gaining momentum. A prolonged drought in the West isn’t helping either. Cities, like Phoenix, are facing a tight supply of water raising rates To cover costs and encourage patronage.

“Given the impact climate change is having on water infrastructure, we expect drought conditions will continue to affect rates in many cities,” Mr. Suess said in an email.

Even if rates haven’t gone up in your community, it likely will in the future. Many water districts serve a growing population, increasing the cost of treatment and distribution. And some water districts are having to convert to post-World War II systems, said Veronica Blatte, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Watersense program, which helps consumers and businesses find ways to use less water.

“Rates are going to go up,” Ms Blatte said. “That’s the reality of it.”

Where does that leave consumers?

Reducing the amount of water you use may help. Americans use an average of 82 gallons per person per day at home, according to Watersense,

Traditional advice often focuses on behaviour, such as taking shorter showers or turning off the tap when brushing your teeth. (The EPA says the latter can save eight gallons a day.)

That helps, but the EPA says that homes can use at least 20 percent less water by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances. The bathroom is a good place to start because it accounts for more than half of all water households use indoors. Consumers can update with items such as low-flow shower heads and toilets. The newest toilets use a gallon or less of water per flush, while older models use several gallons of water.

In general, if your toilet is more than 10 years old, you’ll probably save water (and money) by replacing it, says Mary HJ Farrell, senior editor at Consumer Reports.

This doesn’t mean you have to replace every fixture or appliance that uses water at once. “When something breaks, do it,” Ms. Farrell suggested. (Some water utilities may offer discounts or rebates if you upgrade.)

Consumers may be wary of low-flow toilets because some early versions didn’t always work well, but newer models are generally fine, Ms. Farrell said. (Consumer Reports no longer tests older, “water hog” toilets, he said.)

Kitchens and laundry rooms are other places to save water because high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines use much less water than older models. (Tip 2: Only wash full dishes and laundry.)

Low-water landscaping is becoming increasingly popular as a way to save water and cut costs. The EPA says that on average, outdoor water use accounts for more than 30 percent of household water use, but that proportion can double in dry areas.

Using native plants and grasses that are tailored to local weather patterns, and “hydrozoning” — grouping plants based on their water needs — can reduce watering, said Tony Kosky, extension turf specialist at Colorado State University. can help.

Lawns have become tarnished because of a reputation for heavy watering and fertilizing, he said, but, “If you’ve got kids and dogs, you probably want some lawn.”

Ms. Blatte suggests that you think of a lawn the same way you think of carpet. “Do you really need wall-to-wall?” He asked. Perhaps a small “accent rug” would be appropriate.

If you’re renovating your yard, Mr. Kosky recommends hiring a professional landscape designer who knows which plants should be placed together to make them as water efficient as possible. “They know what design flaws to avoid,” he said.

If you use an irrigation system, the control can be set for when it is raining (so more water is not needed) or when the wind is blowing (and the water will spread) and automatically shut off . The equipment may cost a few hundred dollars, but you can probably recoup the money in lower water bills.

A common problem is leaking water; Homeowners may not realize they have one until they get a higher-than-usual water bill. Some water districts bill quarterly, so delays can be costly.

The Chicago-based nonprofit Alliance for Water Efficiency recently analyzed four public utilities’ use of “smart” meter systems, which notify customers immediately if water flow exceeds certain limits over a specified period of time. Which indicates a leak. the study A “statistically significant” reduction in the amount of leakage was found, resulting in a saving of three gallons per meter per day.

If your water department doesn’t have a smart system, you can buy in-house rigs detection equipment at multiple retailers.

Here are some questions and answers about conserving water and lowering your bill:

The Coalition for Water Efficiency makes a proposal water calculator on its website. Fill in a few questions about your appliances and water-use habits, and it’ll generate a report that compares your water use with an average home and a “water-wise” home, along with suggestions for using less water. Will compare

Like gas and electric utilities, water utilities typically offer payment assistance or flexible payment options to low-income customers to help them pay their bills and avoid loss of service. Call your water system to ask if you qualify.

Paid assistance programs are often underutilized, partly because people are unaware of them or the programs can have onerous application requirements, according to a report From the US Water Alliance, a non-profit group that promotes sustainable water policies. A study of alternative pricing strategies in two large midwestern cities by the planning and engineering firms Alliance and Stantec found that water rates should be based at least partially on factors such as building size or number of bedrooms, rather than just the amount. is based. Used water can help reduce the burden of higher rates on low-income households.

look for EPA Watersense label, which means the item has met standards for efficiency and performance. consumer Reports (available by subscription) tests a variety of equipment and gives environmentally friendly products the green leaf, indicating a “Green Choice” product.

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