Identifying Reasons for High Bills
- A change in your water use pattern. This is the most common reason for high water consumption. Frequent visitors, new appliances or regular watering of your lawn or garden can substantially affect your bill, especially during drought. Learn more about water conservation tips here.
- A leak on your side of the County water meter. Many households have some kind of plumbing leak, which can waste a surprising amount of water. For example, depending on its size, a continuously running toilet can waste between 1,000 and 4,000 gallons of water per day and potentially increase your bill by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A single faucet that drips just once every second wastes 8.6 gallons per day, or almost 800 gallons per quarter. Toilets, hot water heaters, in-line humidifiers and irrigation systems are common sources of leaks.
- A misread meter. We’ll automatically reread water meters that show a significant increase in water consumption since the last reading to ensure that no human error was made.
- A faulty meter. Occasionally our water meters don’t accurately measure a property’s water consumption. In most of these cases, our meters “fail slow.” That is, they register less water consumption than what actually occurred.
- More accurate readings due to a new meter. Because the County’s meters may run slower as they age, your utilities bills may decrease over time. As a result, when we replace older meters with newer meters — which we try to do every 10 years — you may have higher water and sewer charges as a result of having more accurate readings. We estimate that 70 percent of all residential meters in the County that are more than 10 years old under-read water consumption. Learn about the new Automated Meter Readers (AMR).
Disputing High Bills
We will not make adjustments to utilities accounts unless we find clear evidence that:
- A meter was read incorrectly.
- A water leak was present on the customer’s side of the water meter and the customer meets the criteria for a leak adjustment.
We make the following resources available to residents and businesses to determine whether an adjustment is warranted:
- Rereads. We will automatically reread water meters that show a significant increase in water consumption since the last reading to ensure that no human error was made. The reread occurs before water bills are sent out to customers.
- High-use investigations. You may request that we perform a high-use investigation to help you determine whether a water leak is present at your property. You should be present during the investigation to ensure that no appliances are in use and to turn off your main water valve when requested to rule out any possible underground leak. Please note that our personnel are not authorized to enter your home during this investigation. Also, you should be aware that high-use investigations can only identify whether a leak is indicated at the time of the investigation. As a result, we may not be able to detect intermittent leaks that disappear before they can be properly identified. To request a high-use investigation, call 703-228-5000.
- Leak adjustment policy. We will adjust customers’ accounts for water leaks when provided proof — such as a receipt from a plumber — that repairs were made promptly after a leak was first identified. Learn how to apply for a leak adjustment.
- Leaks in Your Home or Building: Credit 50 percent of the excess water and sewer charges, using your historical consumption patterns as our baseline.
- Underground Water Leaks Between Water Meter and Your Home or Building: Credit 50 percent of your excess water charges and 100 percent of excess sewer charges based on your historical consumption history.
- Customers are only eligible for a leak adjustment once every five years for leaks that occur inside the house or building.
- These bills are issued when the County discovers that services have gone unbilled for a long period of time. They are a very uncommon occurrence and generally result from unusual circumstances, like meter-setting issues, meter tampering and inaccurate consumption estimation.
- The County takes these billing situations very seriously and considers carefully each instance before a back-bill is issued.
- When a back-bill is issued due to a County error, a bill will be limited to a period of 3 years or less. Also, related late fees may be waived at the discretion of the Billing Manager.
- Read the Utility Account Back Billing Policy.