A gold water spigot above utility bills on a table next to some coins with an arrow graphic., indicating high water bills, and the text "9 reasons" above the image

If you got your water bill recently and had to do a double take because of how high it was, you may have immediately assumed there was a leak causing a problem. However, that’s not the only explanation for a skyrocketing water bill. 

This article will cover everything you should check and troubleshoot to fix your high water bills. 

Let’s get started! 

What Can Be Contributing To Your High Water Bill?

There are many potential causes of a high water bill beyond a visible leak, including faulty water heaters, running toilets, water meters, faucets, washing machines, and HVAC equipment. You may also experience an invisible leak or increased water rates or usage. 

Let’s look at each of these suspects in greater detail.

Water Heater

The water heater in your home holds a large amount of water, so if something goes wrong, you can experience a lot of water waste and a higher water bill. As with any household appliance, many things can go wrong with a water heater, including a leaking water tank or gas control damage. 

Here are some signs of a bad water heater you should keep an eye out for: 

  • Condensation on the tank 
  • Water drippage on the burner 
  • Puddles on the floor near the heater 

Sometimes it’s better to replace the water heater entirely instead of paying for a repair. If you need help determining which kind of water heater is best for you, check out our article on five types of water heaters to consider

two men installing a heat pump water heater in a garage
Workers installing a heat pump water heater in one of our net-zero Florida homes.

Running Toilets

Another common culprit of a high water bill is a running toilet. Often, you can tell that a toilet is running because it continues making noise more than 30 seconds after flushing.

If you aren’t hearing that sound but still suspect that your toilet is the cause of the high water bill, try the following test: 

  1. Remove your toilet lid. 
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank water. 
  3. Leave the toilet for 45 minutes without flushing it. 
  4. Check your toilet bowl – if you notice colored water and you didn’t flush the toilet, your porcelain throne is probably the culprit. 

If you have a leaking toilet, you should have a professional plumber come and take a look right away so you can stop the toilet from running and save on your next water bill. 

Water Meter Issues

Another potential cause, though rare, is an issue with your water meter. The water meter measures all the water that enters your building, so if it is malfunctioning, it may claim that you’re using more water than you are. 

You can check and see if your water meter is working correctly by following these steps:

  • Turn off all the water in your home – double-check to ensure every shower and sink is turned off. 
  • Then, check your water meter – if the meter is still running, you’ve solved the mystery! 

If your water meter is giving an inaccurate reading, contact your city utility board and have them replace it. 

Dripping Faucets

You may think that a dripping faucet will make little difference to your water bill, but you’d be surprised! The average dripping sink faucet loses 120 drips per minute, adding up to 11 gallons (42 liters) a day. Eleven gallons daily adds up to approximately 330 gallons (1,249 liters) every month, just on a dripping faucet! 

To fix a leaking faucet, close it tightly. You may need to tighten the bolts or enlist the help of a professional plumber if the problem persists. 

a man and woman working under the sink to fix the exposed plumbing pipes

Leaking Washing Machine

If a leak isn’t visible immediately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a leak isn’t the issue. It may just be that the leak is in a hidden place. One common culprit is the washing machine, as these appliances are often out of sight, hidden in a corner or a basement, and they might not be one of the first places you look. 

Check out your washing machine if you’ve inspected all the common culprits and your water bill keeps rising. It may be the problem. Unfortunately, if it is, you’ll likely have to call a maintenance specialist or replace the washing machine, as fixing it yourself can be tricky. 

Faulty HVAC Equipment

Humidifiers, heaters, and air conditioning all use a significant amount of water; something could easily go wrong with one of them and drive up your water bill. 

Be sure to inspect these appliances for signs of faulty equipment. If you notice something out of the ordinary, call an HVAC professional to come and take a look.  

Irrigation Leak

Another leak that might not be visible right away is an irrigation leak. If you have a yard, chances are you probably have an irrigation system for watering, and if that starts malfunctioning, it can significantly increase your water bill. 

Several sprinklers spraying water on a green field with white flowers on a sunny day

Often, you won’t be able to see these leaks right away because the irrigation system is underground. In this case, you should check your lawn for signs of flooding. 

Water Rates

Another potential cause of a high water bill is that the water rates in your community increased without you knowing. This situation is highly likely, as water rates are expanding nationwide faster than other utilities

For example, from 2012 to 2021, water rates increased by over 43%. These rising rates are due to scarcer resources and aging water and irrigation systems. 

If you suspect this is the issue, we recommend contacting the appropriate water billing office in your area to inquire about the rates and whether there was an increase. 

Your Water Usage 

If your water bill exceeds the usual amount, you might be tempted to believe something is wrong. While this may be accurate, it may also be true that the higher bill simply reflects how much water your household uses. 

Before you panic and assume something is wrong or there’s a hidden leak somewhere, take a moment and self-check how much water you’re using. For example, if residents in your home are more active or spending more time outside, they’re probably taking more showers, which can lead to a higher bill. 

Additionally, watering lawns and houseplants consumes a lot of water. If you have a guest, you must also account for all the water they’re using. 

A woman watering house plants from a small green watering can.
Dehumidifier water can safely be used to water house plants. Make sure not to use it for food plants, though. Trace contaminants could be present, which might harm your health if you eat them.

If the actual reason behind the high water bill is an increase in water consumption, you can brainstorm ways to reduce your water usage. Reducing overall water usage is the most effective way to decrease your water bill. 

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Only flush your toilet when necessary
  • Have a timer in your bathroom, and only take showers under five minutes
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth
  • Only fill bathtubs halfway when bathing
  • Replace grass in your yard with rocks or turf 
  • Replace old toilets
  • Only wash full loads of dishes and launder full loads of laundry
  • Turn the water off in the shower as you shave
  • Put a nozzle on your garden hose

Final Thoughts

A water bill that is higher than usual can be frustrating, especially if you can’t quickly identify the cause. Unfortunately, there are many culprits of a high statement, including faulty equipment and appliances or a leak that doesn’t present autoptic evidence immediately. 

Another potential reason for a high water bill is an increase in water rates in your community, or you may have increased your water usage without being aware. 


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