The scorching temperatures covering most of the country make for a tempting cold shower. But beware of the water bill.
Average water and sewer bills — often a combination of them — have risen about 50 percent over the past decade, according to Bluefield Research, which is a consulting firm, and is expected to continue to rise. Prices vary, but the average monthly water bill nationwide was about $49 last year, up from $32 in 2012. (The numbers are based on average monthly household water use in the 50 largest U.S. cities.)
Charlie Suss, an analyst at Bluefield, said inflation was one reason for the increase, along with supply chain disruptions and the cost of replacing outdated pipes and equipment. Some cities delayed rate increases during the pandemic and are now catching up. A prolonged drought in the West is not helping. Cities like Phoenix, which are facing water supply shortages, are raise rates to cover costs and encourage conservation.
“Given the impact that climate change continues to have on water infrastructure, we expect drought conditions to continue to affect rates in many cities,” Mr. Seuss said in an email.
Even if rates don’t rise in your community, chances are they will in the future. Many water areas serve a growing population, which drives up treatment and distribution costs. Veronica Plitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said some water districts have to replace regulations that date back to the post-World War II era. Watery sensation Helps consumers and businesses find ways to use less water.
“The rates are going to go up,” said Ms. Plitt. “That’s the truth of the matter.”
Where does that leave consumers?
Reducing the amount of water you use can help. Americans use an average of 82 gallons per day, per person, at home, according to Watery sensation.
Conventional advice often focuses on behavior, such as taking a shorter shower or turning off the tap while you brush your teeth. (The latter can save eight gallons a day, says the Environmental Protection Agency.)
This helps, the EPA says, but families can use at least 20 percent less water by installing water-saving fixtures and appliances. Bathrooms are a good place to start because they can account for more than half of the water that families use indoors. Consumers can upgrade with items like shower heads and low-flow toilets. Newer toilets use just over a gallon of water per flush, or even less, compared to the several gallons of older models.
In general, if your toilet is more than 10 years old, you’ll likely save water (and money) by replacing it, said Mary H.G. Farrell, senior editor at Consumer Reports.
This does not mean that you have to replace every fixture or appliance that uses water at once. “Do it when something’s broken,” suggested Mrs. Farrell. (Some water utilities may offer discounts or rebates if you upgrade.)
Consumers may be wary of low-flow toilets because some older versions didn’t always work well, but newer models are generally good, Ms. Farrell said. (Consumer Reports said it no longer tests the old “water hogs” toilets.)
Kitchens and laundry rooms are other places to look to save water because high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines use much less water than older models. (Another tip: Only wash full loads of dishes and clothes.)
Low-water landscaping is growing in popularity as a way to conserve water and reduce costs. The Environmental Protection Agency says outdoor irrigation accounts for more than 30 percent of household water use on average, but it can be twice that percentage in arid regions.
Tony Koski, an extension turf specialist at Colorado State University, said using native plants and grasses, compatible with local weather patterns, and “hydro-pooling” — grouping plants based on their water needs — can help reduce watering.
Lawns have become stigmatized because of their reputation for requiring heavy watering and fertilization, he said, but, “If you’ve got kids and dogs, you’ll probably want some lawn.”
Mrs. Plett suggested thinking of lawns as you would carpets. “Do you really need wall-to-wall?” she asked. Perhaps a smaller “accent rug” will do.
If you’re renovating your garden, Mr. Koski recommends hiring a professional landscape designer who knows what plants to put together to make watering as efficient as possible. “They know what design flaws to avoid,” he said.
If you use an irrigation system, controls can be installed with this feeling when it rains (so no more watering is needed) or when it’s windy (and the water will disperse) and turn off automatically. Appliances can cost a few hundred dollars, but you can probably get the money back in a lower water bill.
A common problem is water loss through leaks; Homeowners may not realize they have one until they have a larger than normal water bill. Some water districts bill quarterly, so delays can be costly.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency, a Chicago-based nonprofit, analyzed the use of a “smart” meter system at four public utilities, which quickly notified customers if water flows exceeded certain thresholds over a period of time, indicating a leak. the study It found “statistically significant” reductions in the volume of leaks, saving up to three gallons per meter per day.
If your water department doesn’t have a smart system, you can purchase an in-house leak detectors Many retailers.
Here are some questions and answers about rationalizing water consumption and reducing your bill:
How can I find out how much water my house uses?
The Alliance for Water Efficiency offers a water calculator on his website. Fill in a few questions about your appliances and water usage habits, and it’ll generate a report that compares your water use to an average home and a “wise” home, along with suggestions for using less water.
What if I can’t pay my water bill?
Like gas and electric utilities, water utilities typically offer payment assistance or flexible payment options to help low-income customers pay their bills and avoid missing out on service. Call your water system and ask if you qualify.
Payment assistance programs are often underutilized, in part because people are unfamiliar with them or the programs may have onerous application requirements, according to a report From the American Water Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable water policies. A study of alternative pricing strategies in two large Midwestern cities by the Alliance and Stantec, a planning and engineering firm, found that basing water prices at least in part on factors such as building size or number of bedrooms, not just the amount of water used, can help. Reducing the burden of higher rates on low-income families.
How can I find water saving fixtures and appliances?
Look for the Environmental Protection Agency Watery sensation label, which means that the items have passed efficiency and performance standards. Consumer Reports (Available by subscription) Tests a variety of devices and gives environmentally friendly products a green leaf, indicating a “green choice” product.