If your water bill increased sharply from one month to the next, the reasons can vary from the simple to a bit more complicated. First, do you have any new house guests who are using more water? Did you buy a new or additional water consuming appliance like a dishwasher or washing machine? If the answer is no, and nothing else had changed in your water use habits, then it's time for a little detective work. Here are some possibilities in order of likelihood.
1. A leaky toilet
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the toilet is the single biggest source of indoor water use, accounting for 26.7% of consumption in an average home. A leaky toilet can run through up to 200 gallons in a day. That's 1400 gallons a week or 6000 gallons in a month. A three person household typically uses about that much, so a leaky toilet can double your water bill. There are a couple of simple ways to check if your toilet is leaking. First, just listen. If you hear a hissing noise, that's the water entering the toilet tank. If it's doing that constantly that means the water is leaving constantly as well, likely through a faulty flapper at the bottom of the tank. Another way to test for a toilet leak is to put food coloring in the tank. If the color makes its way to the bowl, you have a leak. A new flapper is an easy fix for most people, but if it looks like a different problem or it's one that you don't want to mess with, call a professional plumber. The money you spend will be made up in lower water bills.
2. Leaky faucet fixtures
One drip per second is 3000 gallons per year literally down the drain. It's also about an extra 10 percent of water use per month for a family of three. Double the drip rate is double the water wasted. These are easy to spot, and now that you know they are costing you more money than you think, sometimes easy to fix. Many faucet fixtures can simply be unscrewed and examined. If you find a bad washer, which is usually the culprit, it can be easily replaced. If you are hesitant about messing with your fixtures, it's time to call a professional. Just like with a leaky toilet, fixing a leaky faucet will pay for itself sooner than you think.
3. Irrigation leaks
Now things start to get more complicated. If you have an irrigation system built into your landscaping, you could have a cracked water line or loose joint. If that's the case, water (and money) are leaking out underground. To check for leaks like these, take a look at your yard. Is there a damp or sunken in patch? Is there a spot where the grass is fuller and greener than the areas around it? If so, you may have an underground leak. In a case like this, it's best to call a professional plumber right away to see what you are dealing with and the best way to fix it.
4. Lateral line leaks
This is another potentially serious issue. A lateral line is a line running from your water main into your home. These pipes can get old, or be affected by tree roots, animal or seismic activity. Whatever the case, it won't take long for a leak like this to get expensive as the water drains into the ground underneath your home. This is another case where the advice of a professional plumber is crucial to finding and fixing the problem. This is an issue that can't be ignored.
If you don't have any of these problems and would like to reduce your water bill, here are some things you should stop doing.
Using top-loading washing machines. Front loading models use up to 200% less water
Washing less than full loads
Keeping the water running while shaving or brushing your teeth