Shocked by water bill? How to lower it

Now that the summer is heating up, water bills for lots of us are about to skyrocket.

With the way rates have been going up in recent years, you could pay hundreds of dollars this summer just to wash clothes and water your plants.

Could It Be A Water Leak?

Yvonne Schnelle thought she had a water leak at her small home in St Bernard, Ohio.

Her latest three-month combined water and sewer bill: A whopping $451.

But when she made a spreadsheet of five years of bills, she realized it wasn't because of a leak, or increased usage on her part, but because sewage rates that have tripled.

"The water portion of my last bill was $147," she said, "but the sewage portion was almost $300. And I was like, 'what is this?'"

Reasons For Soaring Rates

Sewer systems everywhere are jacking up rates because of new EPA regulations and the cost of replacing aging water mains.

"It's across the nation – all the major cities and medium size cities are struggling with this. They have aging infrastructure and higher treatment requirements," according to Dave Rager, Director of Northern Kentucky's SD-1 sanitation district and former head of Cincinnati's Water Works.

Rager says, unless you use a septic tank, you can't fight rising sewer rates. He says you just have to lower your water use.

Reduce Your Outdoor Usage

The biggest culprit during the summer is your yard. Rager says a garden hose or sprinkler runs three gallons per minute: That's 180 gallons per hour.

But, he says many people over-water, using hundreds of gallons more than their lawn really needs.

His advice: Never water in the heat of the afternoon: The sun will evaporate almost 30 percent of what comes out of a sprinkler before it even hits the ground.

Around shrubs, Rager suggests laying down a rock garden to hold water.

"It is a system that captures the water and slowly percolates it so the trees and everything can be irrigated," Rager said.

Avoid Thirsty Plants

But, the easiest way to save money outdoors is to buy plants and flowers that don't require a lot of water.

Garden center owner Mike Benken advises gardeners be careful of how many thirsty plants you buy.

Water hogs that require almost daily watering, include:
    
    -Petunias
    -Hydrangeas
    -Impatiens

He suggests buying water misers such as:

    -Roses
    -Begonias
    -Plants in the cactus family, like sedum.

Water misers can go days, if not weeks in some cases, without extra watering.

Benken also says you should water with a wand to get just the roots: Don't waste water spraying your plants with a hose, you'll just be watering their leaves and the air.

Consider Replacing Older Appliances

Finally, Rager suggests not rinsing dishes before using the dishwasher.

Also, he says you should replace water users like old washing machines that use 50 gallons a load. New HE machines use just 20.

And replace old toilets that use three to five gallons per flush with new toilets. A newer model, sold since 1994, uses just 1.6 gallons by law.

Some of the newest models built since 2006 will use just 1.28 gallon per flush, and work better than 10-year-old 1.6 gallon models.

And don't wash the car with a garden hose, or blast the driveway with a hose cleaning during the winter. You are charged full sewage rates until April.

Water leaks can also make your bills sky-high for months. But, there are easy ways to check for water leaks, just go to your water provider's website for that.

Do you have ideas about how to save water in the summer? L et m e know at joe@abc15.com or by going to my  "Let Joe Know" Facebook page.

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