This page explains potential causes of high water and sewer charges and the adjustments you may qualify for in certain cases. Read some
Identifying Reasons for High Bills
If you receive an unusually high utilities bill from Arlington County, there are generally five possible reasons:
- A change in your pattern of water use. This is the most common reason for high water consumption. Frequent visitors, new appliances, or regular watering of your lawn or garden can substantially affect your bill. View some water conservation tips.
- A leak on your side of the County water meter. Many households have some kind of plumbing leak, which can waste a surprising amount of water. For example, depending on its size, a continuously running toilet can waste between 1,000 and 4,000 gallons of water per day and potentially increase your bill by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A single faucet that drips just once every second wastes 8.6 gallons per day, or almost 800 gallons per quarter. Toilets, hot water heaters, in-line humidifiers, and irrigations systems are common sources of leaks.
| How can you test for leaks? While many leaks can only be detected by experienced professionals, some leaks can be detected by visual or audible inspection of pipes or by conducting simple tests. One common type of leak that you can check for is a silent toilet leak. To perform this test, simply drop some non-permanent food coloring into your toilet tank. If after 45 - 60 minutes the coloring shows up in your toilet bowl, you likely have this type of leak. These leaks can often be repaired by changing the flapper. Another common culprit—dripping faucets—can typically be repaired by replacing the rubber O-ring or washer inside the valve.|
- A misread meter. Even the most experienced and well-trained meter readers occasionally make mistakes. However, Arlington County has a policy of automatically rereading meters that show a significant increase in water consumption since the last reading.
- A faulty meter. Occasionally our water meters do not accurately measure a property’s water consumption. In most of these cases, our meters “fail slow.” That is, they register less water consumption than actually occurred.
- More accurate readings due to a new meter. Because the County’s meters may run slower as they age, your utilities bills may decrease over time. As a result, when we replace older meters with newer meters—which the County tries to do every ten years—you may have higher water and sewer charges as a result of having more accurate readings. In fact, we estimate that 70 percent of all residential meters in the County that are more than 10 years old under-read water consumption. Read Frequently Asked Questions about new Automated Meter Readers (AMR) >>
Resources for Disputing High Utilities Bills
Arlington County will not make adjustments to utilities accounts unless we find clear evidence that either 1) a meter was read incorrectly, 2) a water leak was present on the customer’s side of the water meter and the customer meets the criteria for a leak adjustment or 3) the meter was tested and the results indicate that the meter runs fast. The County makes the following resources available to residents and businesses to determine whether an adjustment is warranted:
- Rereads. Arlington County will automatically reread water meters that show a significant increase in water consumption since the last reading to ensure that no human error was made. The reread occurs before water bills are sent out to customers.
- High use investigations. You may request that the County perform a high-use investigation to help you determine whether a water leak is present at your property. You should be present during the investigation to ensure that no water is being used and to turn off your main water valve to rule out any possible underground leak. Please note that our personnel are not authorized to enter your home during this investigation. Also, you should be aware that high use investigations can only identify whether a leak is present at the time of the investigation. As a result, we may not be able to detect intermittent leaks that disappear before they can be properly identified. To request a high use investigation, please contact our Customer Service Center at 703-228-6570.
|Arlington County’s leak adjustment policy. Arlington County will adjust customers’ accounts for water leaks when customers provide proof—such as a receipt from a plumber—that repairs were made promptly after a leak was first identified. For leaks inside your property, the County’s policy is to credit your account for 50 percent of the excess water loss, using your historical consumption patterns as our baseline. For underground water leaks that occur between the water meter and your property, Arlington County will credit your account for 50 percent of your excess water charges and 100 percent of your excess sewer charges based on your historical consumption history. Please be aware that customers are only eligible for a leak adjustment once every five years for leaks that occur inside the house or building. If you have questions about our leak adjustment policy, please contact our Customer Service Center at 703-228-6570.|
- Meter Tests. If you do not have a water leak but still have concerns about your utilities bill after a high use investigation has been conducted, you may request that a test be performed on your water meter to determine whether it may be over-reading the water consumption at your property. Your meter will be removed and tested on our test bench. If we find that the meter tests fast, your account will be credited for the excess water consumption, based on your historical consumption patterns. Please note that it is rare for a meter to over-read consumption, as meters tend to slow down as they age. In fact, replacing your old meter with a new one may result in higher bills. Old meters will not be returned to your property after testing. To request a meter test, please contact our Customer Service Center at 703-228-6570.