Recently in a large city not far from where I live, people began receiving water bills that were totally out of line and seemingly ridiculous. Some of them were well over $1000 for one month’s service. Of course residents complained—some to the municipality, some to the media, and most to their family, friends, and neighbors. One article I read gave statistics from the AAWA (American Water Works Association) that reported the possibility that a1/16″ leak could cause you to lose 970 gallons of water in a twenty-four hour period. They estimated the increase in your monthly bill might be as much as $600. When only one person reports this kind of jump, there is a tendency for those in charge to ignore the protest and attribute the difference to consumer overuse. However, when an entire section of a city complains, city water departments must take note. Thus the city began to look for the cause or causes for these substantial increases in water use. Since water pipes were hidden under the ground, locating major problems required costly detection, serious damage to property, and expensive reclamation services. They checked water meters of the area involved, looked for pooling or bubbling water in yards, located sinkholes or unusually damaged areas of pavement, and finally found the major broken water pipes causing the problem. Needless to say, there was considerable frustration among residents, utility workers, and city officials. The lesson most homeowners learned was to keep a more watchful eye on their water consumption and billing and to look for signs that their individual residence might have a water leak.
There are some things you as a homeowner can do to help protect your home from costly water damage. Sometimes water problems are unnoticed for long periods of time because pipes are located in hard-to-see places like walls, ceilings, or underground. If a leak occurs in a situation like this one, the long term effects could be devastating. Not only will you pay out the wazoo on your water bill, but the potential for a mold infestation jumps exponentially the longer a water leak remains undetected. Check often under sinks, overhead, and outdoors for any evidence of a leak. Look in basements, crawl spaces, and around toilets for water, mold, and mildew. Be on the alert if your water bill jumps suddenly. If any of these warning signs occur, you may need to consult a qualified professional immediately. Doing this may save you substantial amounts of money and the anguish that accompanies this kind of problem.