I can’t tell you how many times I have had people walk through my office door complaining about how high their water bills are. It’s supposed to be the cheapest utility, right? With the official start of spring right around the corner, here are some tips on how to make sure your money doesn’t go down the drain!

Be Proactive With Your Water Bill

Most of us probably get our bill, pay it, and toss the statement. Don’t throw out your statement. Keep it for another month to compare it to the next bill. Each statement should show the previous and current month’s reading. Meters are normally read around the same time each month, so you should have a fairly regular usage depending on the time of year.

Whether your water district/department uses electronic readers or a person reads it, mistakes can happen! Don’t be afraid to go check it yourself. Your bill should show a statement period, like: 1/18/2012–2/20/2012.  We can see that the normal read date for this office is around the 19th or 20th of the month. On the 20th of the next month, check your meter and write down the exact numbers. I recommend using a stick or some other tool to open the lid on the box.  Don't stick your hand down in the box; black widow spiders and snakes love meter boxes. You will be able to see, when you get your next statement, how accurate their reading is. If you aren't sure where your meter is, call and ask them to flag it the next time they are out.

Check For Leaks

There are several places you can check on your own for possible leaks and even fix, which will save on repair bills.

Check appliances like dishwasher hoses, refrigerator hoses, washing machines and hot water tanks. Make sure there are no drips or cracks in lines.

Check around all the faucets in your home; make sure there are no drips under the cabinet or around the faucet. Keep in mind that the cost for even a minor drip coming from the faucet can add up quickly. Tightening the lines will help, but if it seems more serious you may need to seek help.

Toilets are a big cost when it comes to water bills. The best way to tell if you have a running toilet, besides hearing it, is to put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and watch to see if it goes down the bowl without flushing. If it does, you need to get it fixed.

If you are planning on going out of town, consider turning the water off to your home to prevent leaks while you are gone. No one wants to come home to a flood! A water key can be purchased at any home improvement store. Be sure and turn off the breaker to your hot water heater if you turn the water off to avoid breaking it.

Outside water hydrants and sprinkler systems are the other big cost. It is a good idea to keep them insulated in the winter, but check them in warmer months too. Water can leak underground and be displaced so that you don't see the problem until it has already cost you hundreds of dollars.

If you do have a leak, get it fixed and call to speak with the office. Some departments will give a leak adjustment, but most require you have the leak fixed first.  They normally only allow one a year.

Find Money Saving Options

Can't have summer fun without filling up the pool. Problem is, it takes a lot of water to fill it. Call the office number located on your statement to let them know you are planning on filling up your pool.  Ask if they have a special rate consideration for this. This will let the reader know you don't have a leak, and it could save you money.

When you are checking your bill, keep in mind that the average water use for a person in the U.S. is 2000 to 3000 gallons per person per year. Most people use less, but this is normal. The time of year plays a big part in how much water you use. For example, in the summer you might take an extra shower, run an extra load of clothes from doing yard work, or water flowers or a garden.  In the winter you might have a few months of low usage, but then you have company for Christmas. It's these little changes that people forget the most and are the normal cause for an increase. To keep costs down, take showers instead of baths. Encourage kids, especially those teen girls, to cut showers to 5 minutes. Fill the dishwasher or washing machine to capacity to cut down on the number of times you run them. Also consider energy saving appliances when your old machines break.

This has been a guest post by Jacque from Vian, OK
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Catch That Drip: How to Save Money on Your Water Bill