Return to the Irrigation Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Massive increase in water usage

Posted by mcguirev10 FL (My Page) on
Thu, Oct 12, 06 at 22:14

I have a good friend who recently installed a sprinkler system on city water through a separate irrigation meter. Last month his irrigation usage ran about 9000 gallons. This month he was shocked to receive a bill for 134,000 gallons of usage.

His sprinkler guy (who also did some landscaping) increased his daily run-time from 160 minutes to 440 minutes, but he's been turning off the second half of the scheduled run on almost a daily basis. Even ignoring that, though, the usage is many times higher than it should be for the run time.

His girlfriend verified the programming is correct. Using the meter at the street, we clocked his sprinkler's current usage at about 19.4 gallons per minute. This is a 3/4" meter and I believe a 3/4" pipe but I don't know the PSI rating -- but I think it would have to be unusually high for city residential service to support 19.4 GPM.

I therefore suspect that the meter is bad. He doesn't have any suspiciously swimming-pool-sized sinkholes in his lawn (134,000 gallons on a 0.4 acre lot should pretty much sink the house, I suspect). I suggested that he begin by contacting his sprinkler guy. I expect he ought to have some kind of warranty (I don't know what kind of warranty he got, but it hasn't even been 90 days since it was installed), and I'd think a sprinkler guy ought to know about these things.

Any suggestions about what to do in this situation would be appreciated, including other things to check (and how) and what kind of response he is could reasonably expect in this situation. He's pretty worried about the very large water bill -- if the meter is bad I'd expect it to go away, but if the sprinkler system is bad, does he have any hope of recovering that expense?

Any and all input is appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

I would say that your friend either has a bad meter or there's a significant leak somewhere.
The average household in the U.S. uses an average of 200 to 300 gallons of water per day per household. This takes into account watering the lawn, cooking, drinking, showers and baths, and running toilets.
Your friend is averaging 4,400+ gallons per day, which is pretty phenomenal.
Unless there are 15 or more people living at his home, there is no reason that he should be using that much water.
Something is seriously wrong. He needs to check several things:
1. Make sure his toilets are not leaking. Sometimes the seal does not fully shut from the reservoir to the bowl and large amounts of water can be lost this way.
2. Look for serious wet patches, not only around his house on the lawn and in the yard, but also around the edges of his slab. (the water could be going under the slab.)
3. Check his neighbors' yards. Water could be leaking somewhere and may not be visible in his yard.
4. Have his meter checked.
I would have a reputable plumber do an inspection. It might cost a little, but certainly not more than paying for hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per month.

Here is a link that might be useful: Desert Gardens


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

It doesn't take a whole lot to water a 100,000 gallons in a month. Say you're running 15 GPM for 4 hours a day for thirty month. 108,000 gallons. The 9,000 gallons sounds way too low for an irrigated lawn in FL - could it have really been 90,000? I water 2,500 gallons a day on average in the summer in MA or 75,000 gallons a month. Sounds like the old meter was faulty.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

Steve:
The average home in the U.S. uses about 68 gallons per day to water lawns and another 8 gallons per day to water gardens. That's an average of about 2,340 gallons per month.
In the desert in Phoenix, AZ. it might be a little higher. On the East and Gulf Coasts, maybe somewhat lower, because of the rainfall.
If I understand you correctly, you're using 2,500 gallons per day to water your lawn? That's more than the monthly national average. And if you're using 75,000 gallons per month, that's more than the national average for a YEAR! Do you have an unusually big yard?
If not, I would seriously check where that water is going or check your meter. Chances are, much of it is being wasted, going into the street, or as runoff, and you're paying for water that someone else is getting, or your meter is way off, and you're still paying for water you're not getting.
If you are indeed using 75,000 gallons per month, then you really need to look at your water usage. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Desert Gardens


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

I use a shallow well so I'm not precisely measuring my usage. I water roughly a quarter acre through a 5 zone system, 3 to 4 large rotor heads per zone. The nozzle in each head is sized at roughly 3 to 4 gallons per minue. Grab a calculator. My well outputs about 12 gallons per minute, which translates to 720 gallons per hour. Assuming I water 3.5 hours a day in the heat of the summer, that equals 2,520 gallons per day. Multiply by 30 days in the month and I use 75,600 gallons per month (July and August only). I can't imaging how you'd irrigate a decent sized lawn with 68 gallons - that roughly 5 minutes with a garden hose.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

Steve: I do stand corrected. If my calculations are right, you're giving your lawn between 1.5 and two inches per acre foot a week, and that's about right. Don't know what I was thinking.
b


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

OK. I was starting to question my own calculations we were so far apart :)


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

First, national averages are TOTALLY useless and mean nothing on a per individual project specific problem!

If your friend is using 19+ gallons per minute and has 3/4inch piping and meter then the first place to look for "masive water usage" is a faulty water meter. Why? 19 to 20gpm is far to high a flow rate for a 3/4 inch system.

However, you have come up with the flow rate of 19gpm by reading the water meter that indicates 134,000 gallons per month. The math is not the problem ( at approx 220 minutes per day = 128,040g per mo ). Even if there is a 'leak' , you would need a great deal of city pressure to FORCE 19 gpm through 3/4 inch piping, valves and meter.

YES, talk with the 'sprinkler guy'. He should know what he installed ( although the 440 min cycle time puts his expertise in question ). That is to say;

How many heads on each valve station ( zone )?
Which nozzles were used?

This data will give you an approximate per min. flow rate ( gpm )per zone. This data is also helpful when discussing your concerns with the water company ( they are usually stubborn about such matters and in fact typically unaware of actual flow rates the water meters are capable of ).

9 to 10 gpm is as much as I would recomend for a 3/4 inch system. In fact 8 gpm is the maximum under certain conditions ( based on the city water pressure ).

You said that a seperate service was installed for the sprinkler system so you may want to confirm a couple of things :

a] does the meter show no flow when the irrigation is not running? If the meter is running and the irrigation is off, where is the water going??
b] remove all the sprinkler heads and plug the risers. Open each valve station and confirm that the water meter still shows no flow.
If the meter shows no flow in a] above but there is flow with the risers plugged and the zone control valve open ( b] ) then their is a leak in that zones line.

In any case, based on the information you have provided I would suspect the water meter. 19gpm is to high a flow in 3/4 inch... by design or due to leakage, without substantial pressure .

pumptech


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

I actually just went through the same thing. We live in Phoenix and had to seed our lawn with Bermuda grass this summer. Our lot is about a .5 acre corner lot. In the winter, we used around 20k gallons per month and about 40k in the summer. After our landscaper put the seed down, he had us water 3 times a day (3 zones) for enough time to keep it damp. Well, here in Phoenix it took 1 hour per section x 3 times a day to keep it damp. We did this for 3 weeks and then turned it back down to just 1 time per day.

We got our bill a few weeks later, 175,000 gallons!!! (over $700!) We thought it was wrong and fought the bill. They tested our meter, which was 12 years old, and found that the meter was fine (actually running slow). So we kept fighting it. They set up a time with us, the city, and an arbitrator. We had our meeting about a month ago (4 months after the billing month). I put together about a 10 page presentation with supporting facts, history and information suggesting our bill should have been for 70k gallons instead. We had our meeting, and after I presented it, the City of Phoenix water guy said that in is 23 years with the city, that was the best presentation he has ever seen. (I do this for a living so it was very good) They argued back saying that they've seen this before and it's not hard for 100k gallons of water to evaporate quickly in the Phoenix heat. They mentioned about meter skipping which has rarely happend in the past, but was a possibility. We left the meeting feeling good, they were very responsive to us and said they would get back to us in 30 days. Well, about 3 weeks later we got a letter...nope! We still have to pay the entire bill.

You can try fighting it, but unless the meter is bad I can't see them over turning it. However, your sprinkler installer could be responsible if it's something they did.

Good luck!


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

Branoub, I can't believe how similar our situations are. I have a house at the Pointe South Mountain and we had meters installed by Water Submetering Systems. My water bills are now $3-400 per month and they say I am using 40-50k gallons per month!!! That is alot of water even if you water the lawn alot. I too have requested a meeting between the City of Phoenix, Water Submetering, and the board. It is strange that the city would tell you its the best presentation ever. How many times does this happen? Sounds like something is going on. Does anyone know a inspector in Phoenix that could check for leaks in my home, pool, sprinklers? Thanks.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

You guys should contact whatever union or groups may work with city water employees *after they retire.* I bet you could hire someone qualified from that source to come look at your meter, and if needed, document it and testify for you.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

Hi
I am new to this group but had to join in the discussion. I have worked for a water utility for ten years and my area of expertise is high consumption or high bill issues. First of all lets clear up a few misconceptions. I don't know what kind of meter you have but they are all very similar in flow characteristics. A Sensus 3/4" meter is rated to flow at 15 gal/min all day long and peak upto 30 gal/min. Though at peak flow the meters lifespan would be significantly reduced. So 19.4 gal/min is by no means unusual. It is also not unusual to have a 1" service line and a 3/4" meter increasing your meters ability to flow at its peak. Might there have been a misread? It happens. An extra zero or a misplaced comma is all it takes to multiply a read by a thousand ie 13,400 or 134,000. If the meter was bad out of the box it would have shown immediatley on the first bill. Not to say that there has never been a bad meter but usually it is bad on the low side not high. Is the register on the meter properly sized for the chamber, that will definitly screw up a read. Though again you would see it on the first bill. The fact that your first bill seemed normal and all of a sudden you got a high bill tells me that you are using more than you realize or you have a leak. And as one gentleman said 19.4 gal/min on a sprinkler zone is rather on the high side. Maybe you have a leak going into a nearby sewer I have seen that. Or a broken head or two can cause a massive increase in usage I see that alot also. I have been to alot of houses with irrigation systems that got a high bill all of sudden and could not concieve of how they could use that much water till we find the leak in the yard or at the valve box next to the house where the water runs down the foundation into the drain tile and the sump pump is working overtime. Charge up the system but don't turn on any zones. Watch the meter there should be a leak detector, a small red dial or a triangle that spins when flow is occurring. If it is moving and nothing is on and no one is using any water you have a leak.

This all started months ago maybe you have resolved the issue? I hope so. If not contact your water utility I am sure they can assist you in solving the problem.

I know I kind of rambled on but I am at work and wanted to clear up a few things I read.

Mark Dooley
Crewleader
Glenview Water Department


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

I am becoming crazy with my water bill, since it appeared three times higher than usual, I called a plumber to locate a leak because even after shutting down water inside the house the water meter is still running, but neither the plumber nor the guy from the city water of Spring hill in TN could find exactly the problem. They agreed there is a leak between the water meter and the house and suggest to make a new water line and it is going to be very expensive that I can't afford. My home insurance says: "they can't help me because is something regarding with maintenance pipe in the case it needs to be replaced since there are no leaks through the walls or floors of the house that could be called a damage. By the way there are no sigh of leaking or running water neither inside or outside of the house. I don't know what to do. I don't have money to afford a replacement of a new water line, I am not sure they are right with the solution and I am not convinced it's nothing to do than replacement. My house was built in 2004 and the pipe the pipe that we can see from the box of the water meter is copper. No sign of leak or worry just after getting a higher bill. Please tell me what to do


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

mag,

Does the water line to your house go under any concrete?
Do you have any yard drains that go to underground drain boxes in the street? Is you water line to the house under your house slab or is your house on post and piers? The plumber should have asked these questions so I may be going over info just to catch up. I have some thoughts on what you may do if you answer the questions. Aloha


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

My water line goes under the sidewalk, but I don't know if it also goes through the parking space and the garage or if this goes next to the left side wall because my house have a L shape front.
I also have city drain boxes in the back of my yard and on the front of the street.
Thank you for your answer I will be waiting for you suggestion lehua 13.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

My husband, my son, and I were digging until find the pipe from the water meter, crossing the sidewalk making a tunnel following the route of the pipe and no leak anywhere. We figured out that the copper pipe doesn't go under the garage. It goes like one foot next to the wall of the house until the corner. So we don't know what to do know. Help with your suggestions, ideas, please!
Even we shut down the water inside the house, my water meter still running and I don't know what to do by this point.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

Mag,
Now comes the part where you find access to your piping. You didn't say if you house was on a concrete slab or post & pier type or that your water piping goes from your slab into your attic space from the wall in the garage. Look for your pressure regulator. That should be visible in your garage or close to it. There should be a total house house shut-off by it or right after the water meter beyond the sidewalk a few feet in the yard. If you cannot find one have your plumber install one close to the house. The water meter box has a full shut-off petcock but it usually hard to get at in the box. The next step is buying an automotive stethoscope and put the probe on various parts of the water line and listen for sounds and changes in sounds (louder or quieter). After turning off and on the house shut-off. Your plumber can do this as well. You could have a leaking water pipe in one of your bathrooms that is flowing down inside the wall into the ground without you knowing it. Check sound in the bathroom plumbing areas while turning on and off the full shut-off. Let me know what happens. Hopefully you can isolate the problem.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

First, thank you so much for answering. My house is on concrete slab and the valve of shut water on/off is in the garage close to the thermal. We think, not sure that the water line cross through the wall and meet with the copper pipe outside of the house.
By the way I have a sewer line close to it outside and a drainer box of the city that is in the back yard and a drain box on the street.
A guy from the city water brought a device of hearing and he heard a sound of water running harder sound at the water meter than at the thermal control. At the beginning of this, before the high bill came we were having trouble with one bathroom, we used to hear a sound of flushing but nobody was there. This sound was more clear at night when sleeping. I changed the rubber ring/band inside of the tank. The sound was less but not disappeared. We forgot about this and suddenly the sound disappeared completely. I don't know if this has relation with this.
One last thing. When we shut off the water from the valve inside close to the thermal the water meter is still running, but when We close the water from the inside of the water meter box it stops... thanks again.Anything else you can tell us, please...


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

First, thank you so much for answering. My house is on concrete slab and the valve of shut water on/off is in the garage close to the thermal. We think, not sure that the water line cross through the wall and meet with the copper pipe outside of the house.
By the way I have a sewer line close to it outside and a drainer box of the city that is in the back yard and a drain box on the street.
A guy from the city water brought a device of hearing and he heard a sound of water running harder sound at the water meter than at the thermal control. At the beginning of this, before the high bill came we were having trouble with one bathroom, we used to hear a sound of flushing but nobody was there. This sound was more clear at night when sleeping. I changed the rubber ring/band inside of the tank. The sound was less but not disappeared. We forgot about this and suddenly the sound disappeared completely. I don't know if this has relation with this.
One last thing. When we shut off the water from the valve inside close to the thermal the water meter is still running, but when We close the water from the inside of the water meter box it stops... thanks again.Anything else you can tell us, please...


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

mag,

Do you have a pressure regulator for your house? It is usually in the garage. You need to get the water pressure reading from a hose faucet with a pressure gauge you can get at the hardware store. Let me know what the pressure reading is. You could have high water pressure or a faulty regulator and your plumbing seal of all your water appliances and fixtures are under attack. They are designed for 45 to 55 psi pressure. Higher than that your pipes are subject to water hammer impacts and over time fail the water tightness of your house and makes the pipes rattle or groan. If you get no sound after the house shut-off valve is shut and the meter is still running dig up the mainline every 5 feet from the water meter to the house and check for wet areas or noise. You may still have leaks in the house as well just more than one. You should be able to narrow down the noise and check if you have pressure related problems. For example check if your washing machine is leaking and moving water through the drains. Also check the city drains in your yard and see if the flow changes when you shut off your water. Give it some time to adjust. JMHO Aloha


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

If your saying when you shut the water off in the garage the meter shows water is still running but when you shut the water down in the meter pit it stops then your problem has to be between the garage and the discharge side of the meter. If you live up north your meter connection is down below the frost line about 4' at the pit. Your problem could lie there and may not be noticeable because its leaching into the ground.


 o
RE: Massive increase in water usage

Thanks a lot for your comments, we are going to do everything you suggested. We will continue digging and I will let you know what we found out.. thanks again!


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Irrigation Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here