The average homeowner opens their water bill and pays it without really looking at it. It's one of those bills that many feel they have little or no control over. Once you understand how it works it's easier to see how you can actually take steps to save some extra cash and conserve our valuable water supply while your at it.
Understanding Your Water Bill
Most Santa Cruz area water companies measure water in terms of "units"; with one unit being 748 gallons or 100 cubic feet (CCF) of water. The pricing structure works in tiers rewarding users who use less water:
Tier 1: 1-8 units of water: $2.51 per unit.
Tier 2: 9-30 units of water: $5.17 per unit.
Tier 3: Over 30 units of water: $8.96 per unit.
The structure varies slightly depending on the district, but the principle is the same – the less you use, the less you pay. In addition, a fixed flat fee or service charge is applied that ranges from $10 to $25 per month. This helps to pay for administrative costs, customer service, 24-hour emergency response, meter reading, and the availability of water in the case of fire.
Water bills also have payment due dates, as do most bills, and when they aren't paid on time, late charges will apply. These penalties range from $10 to $60 per notice.
Reducing Your Water Consumption
The first step to lowering your bill is to reduce your water consumption. Begin by understanding how much of your household use involves indoor use and how much is attributed to outdoor use. The easiest way, is to compare your winter bills with your summer bills. Generally the difference will be the result of extra usage for watering grass and plants. This one task can send your water bill into the upper tiers of the fee structure. In fact, it's common for water bills to triple in the hotter months when approximately 30 percent of household water usage goes toward watering the lawn.
Anything you can do to reduce the amount of water you direct toward irrigation will help. Attaching timers to your sprinkler system, using drip systems or even watering in the cooler times of the day to reduce evaporation will all help.
If your usage climbs up the ladder in the winter months, start examining your internal sources of water. Replace old fixtures, shower heads and washer with newer water-saving versions, and check for leaks. Taking these steps saves an average of 45.2 gallons per person per day or 11 CCF units for a family of three over two months.
Another perk resulting from reduced water consumption is a lower sewer bill. Some districts will reduce your sewer rates if your household uses less water. If you send in copies of your water bills from November to March that demonstrate water consumption is 21 CCF units or less, your rate will be lowered to the multiple-family dwelling rate in the following year. Your local provider will be able to provide details if they offer this option.
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