View Full Version : Water usage 100,000 gallons per month?!

12-03-2008, 07:03 AM
I am an off-site owner of a rental property having three units, two of the units have one resident each, the third has three residents.

The water bill for this property is generally around $150-260 per quarter.

Recently I got a notice that when the meter was read for the July-October quarter, there was "Excessive Water Usage". I arranged for the local manager of the property to meet the City water department at the house to do a "flow test" on the water meter to check for malfunction.

I just got the results of the test. They inform me that the meter is functioning normally, and that from the end of October to the end of November the water use was 9,500 gallons - which is in line with what it usually is. But the usage between July and October was 300,000 GALLONS, resulting in a water bill of over $2,000!

The local manager says none of the tenants reported running toilets, but a contractor that I had doing some repair work at the house said he found outdoor faucet on about three times over the summer, with water just running from the hose into the yard.

I found one source that suggested a running hose could go through 10 gallons per minute. If this is correct, the hose would have had to be running non-stop for 21 days in order to use that amount of water.

The water department says "nothing can be done" about the outrageous water bill, since the meter is currently operating properly. I'm beside myself, everyone is blaming everyone else - the property manager is trying to blame the contractor, the contractor is blaming the tenants, the tenants are all pointing at each other, but nobody has suggested anything that could reasonably account for this spike in usage.

Any thoughts, suggestions, advice would be appreciated.

Gary Swart
12-03-2008, 10:43 AM
There was a similar issue brought to light on this forum recently. I came down to the fact that apparently there was a new person reading the meter and screwed it up. I can't say that's what is happening here, but I will say that it is virtually impossible for the water usage to jump that much. I don't care if the every toilet in all of the houses were not shutting off and the yard hoses left on 24/7. If the city continues to stonewall you, contact an attorney.

12-03-2008, 11:22 AM
It does not seem likely that 300,000 gallons came out of a hose onto the yard without flooding the property.

12-03-2008, 11:35 AM
there was a new person reading the meter and screwed it up.

That doesn't matter. If he read it wrong, it would be corrected at the next reading, i.e. next time it would read like you used a large negative number of gallons, so it would get corrected. It's happened to me a few times with the electric meter.

If the meter is working OK, you're liable for it unless you can somehow show that the meter went nuts for a while and then fixed itself. Not an easy proof :(

Ian Gills
12-03-2008, 11:43 AM
I would try to check that there is nothing else connected to that meter.

A pool nearby perhaps?

I own an apartment where despite the regulations saying the contrary the electric gate servicing all apartments uses the same electricity meter as one of the apartments.

If it is a new build I would be especially wary. Especially if it's in the USA.

12-03-2008, 12:41 PM
There are no pools nearby, not even above-ground pools. It's not new construction, but rather an old multi-family home on a residential block. In May of '07 the city claimed that the "Outside Register" was not keeping up with the actual meter in the basement. They replaced the outside register at that time, and I'm not sure if the meter in the basement was replaced as well. When they did that I had a rather large catch-up bill, but nothing even approaching the level of this one.

The meter has already been read since the humongous reading was taken, and they report that usage has dropped to normal levels. I too find it hard to believe that a leaky toilet could go through 300,000 gallons in a 3-month period. A couple of years ago some careless tenants (who are no longer with us) were prone to leaving the hose running. That resulted in some higher-than-usual water bills in the same quarter of '06 - but again, NOTHING on this order of magnitude.

I have a call in to the chief water plan operator, he says he's looking into it, but doesn't sound hopeful. I might have to call the neighbors to see if they've noticed a spike in their bills, too.

12-03-2008, 12:48 PM
What that other person found out was that the reader did something like transposing either the serial number or the actual numbers, and while the meter was actually working correctly, it got charged off based on a different starting valuve. If you have your last bill, check the actual meter reading (not the quantity used) and see if it is the same starting value for this period.

master plumber mark
12-03-2008, 01:21 PM
if you found a hose running 3/4 blast for 20 days

that could run up a pretty substantial water bill....

but 300,000 gallons seems a little extreme.. maybe not....

we had a parking lot charity car wash over the forth of july one time that ran up a water bill well over 2 grand, and the fireworks store that was only renting the building for two weeks got stuck with that water bill....

it would be very wise to put new hose bibs on that property with a COMMERCIAL TYPE KEY to keep all the little bastards in the neighborhood from turning on those faucets.....

you cant trust renters to even bend over and turn off a faucet for you or tell you that their toilet is running full blast.....

you have to do this all for yourself cause you are the

"evil landlord" makeing all the money

you want the hose bib down on the far left corner of this pic


Gary Swart
12-03-2008, 02:18 PM
It appears City Hall doesn't want to budge on this, so my advise again is to hire an attorney and the sooner the better. The fact that the next meter reading showed normal usage eliminates even the thought of a leak in the supply line, or really anywhere else. That much water coming out of a hose bib or hose would have created such a swamp you what have be able to set up a duck blind in you yard! I would say however, if you are using metered water for lawn irrigation, you should put in an unground system with an automatic controller. You'll pay for the water alright, but it's much easier to regulate how much is used than the old hose method. My city read the meter in the dead of winter to figure my household usage and use that to figure my sewer charge for the entire year. They figure the extra water I use in summer irrigation does not go into the sewer. It saves me some money.

12-04-2008, 05:40 AM
If water is included in the rent then there is probably not much you can do...BUT What I would do is have a max. # of gallons or a max. dollar amount that you are responsible for and any amount over that they collectively are responsible for...You maybe could have them responsible for the whole bill collectively. Much of this will be determined by state law in regards to renters. Is there any way each unit can be metered and make them responsible...Some municipalities will only bill the owner of record and won't deal with Tennant's.

12-04-2008, 11:12 AM
A hose will fill a 20,000 gallon swimming pool in a day so a hose could run that much water, the question would be where it went, and nobody is talking. How would the contractor or the property manager have any responisibility unless they were there and either turned the hose on or did not turn it off. And once they turned it off, nothing would keep someone from turning it back on. Meters are a positive displacement device so they can register slow because of tight bearings but it is almost, if not completely, impossible to over register, unless it is an electronic counter.

12-04-2008, 03:41 PM
My earlier point is were they reading your meter, or did they possibly put the reading on a different account and you got billed for it? Compare the start/end readings around the month of huge use and see if they line up with what's actually on your meter. The start reading of the current bill should be the end reading of the one before it. If there's a discrepancy, somethings wrong in their accounting.

12-12-2008, 01:33 PM
i'm anxious to hear if you had any recourse...i'm going through an essentially identical situation. My typical water usage is 4000 gallons/month, and i got hit with a bill over $1000 for 104,000 gallons in a single month, and of course the water company is sticking with their position that their meters are infallible. The end meter reading from each previous bill corresponds with the beginning reading for the next, and 3 readings have been my typical 4000 gallons since the spike. There are no pools, am here 24/7 and no hoses left on (not that that could create 100,000 gallons), no leaks (checked for). Have you discovered any way to fight this??? i KNOW i didn't use this but am at their mercy.

Gary Swart
12-12-2008, 03:29 PM
The only recourse I can see is an attorney. The problem is of course, they have the meter readings against your word that nothing was left on for the entire month! One thought though. If the month before was a normal month, and the month after was a normal month, and all other months show a consistent pattern, then isn't it odd that the huge spike coincided exactly with one meter reading period and was exactly 100,000 gallons more than your normal usage.:rolleyes: The city can be forced to go back for years to show your water consumption, and while that wouldn't actually prove your case, it would give reason the believe that somehow there was a data enter error on that month.

12-13-2008, 04:38 AM
If it was a data entry error it would most likely show up the following month as a negative reading....now if it is a very old meter then it may be worn out and in need of replacement but a 100,000 gallon error is odd if it is that exact..

12-13-2008, 01:15 PM
my guess is someone working in the area such as landscaper, lawn service, etc turned it on, wanted the water to clear the hose so it would be cold to drink, and then left it on - could also be kids.

i have a well, and can do almost 1000 gals per hour through the hose -

hopefully it was another meter that caused a strange "restart" of your measurement - good luck with this one. shut it off inside.......if it gets
turned back on, then it is someone with access.


12-17-2008, 11:48 AM
i'm intrigued...how could another meter cause a restart of mine? is this a possibility??

12-17-2008, 07:05 PM
i have a well, and can do almost 1000 gals per hour through the hose -


16 gal/min. ....I don't think so....

12-18-2008, 08:51 AM
16 gal/min. ....I don't think so....

almost = >14gpm through 3/4 feed for my sprinkling system...!!!.
ok almost 900.

12-22-2008, 07:30 PM
I own a rental property in Pittsburgh. Old house, 2 units, 3 floors. Last year I was in the process of evicting a tenant. The next quarter I received the water bill and it was ~9 times the normal consumption. Since the home had two units an attorney stated that it would be impossible to prove that the 1 angry tenant left a faucet running for the time period in PA from when the eviction notice was sent to when she was actually forced to vacate the premises, approximately 30 days from start to finish. Due to 1 water meter on the property. I am thoroughly convinced that the water bill was due to her faucet running non-stop for x number of days. It was impossible to notice since it also went right into the drain and off of the property. The next quarter the water was back to normal for 1 unit being occupied.

I suggest that you analyze whether the tenant(s) have any reason to be spiteful. And I wish that I could offer some advice other than you will have to pay the bill... My personal recourse was to include the actual garbage, water, sewer into the rent each month. However, I am not looking forward to another high water bill. That will force me (most likely) to take both tenants to court if they refuse to pay it. Even then my counsel said that if I have an outdoor water access such as a hose, it might get hard for a magistrate to enforce a ruling in my favor since anyone could turn it on. I thought about a security camera however that is a waste since I think this will most likely be an isolated incident.

This is my first and only post and I hope it gives you some insight. I was looking for a reason that my father's water bill could go from 12,000 gallons to 92,000 in 1 billing cycle. He has no tenants, and I still cannot find an answer... :-(

Good luck.

Pittsburgh, PA

12-23-2008, 05:47 AM
almost = >14gpm through 3/4 feed for my sprinkling system...!!!.
ok almost 900.

OK...a 3/4" sprinkling system is not what I envisioned when you said "through a hose"