High Bill? Check for Excess Consumption

High bills usually mean excess consumption and potentially hundreds of gallons of water being used. This could cost you as much as several hundred dollars a month and thousands of dollars for a quarter. Some examples of excess consumption are:

  • Dripping Faucet: Consumes 15 gallons a day, or 60 cubic feet per month.
  • Running Toilet: May consume up to  12 gallons per minute. Toilet leaks are the most common cause of high bill issues.
  • Underground Sprinkler System Issues:  Breaks in underground sprinkler pipes or damaged sprinkler heads consume large amounts of water. Improperly timed sprinklers water excessively and waste water while increasing bills.
  • Sump Pump with Water-operated Backup: Sump Pumps with water-operated backups can become stuck in the backup mode after a power outage or develop a leak that will be discharged via the sump pump and not result in an obvious accumulation of water on the floor. A sump pump running excessively is the sign of a problem.

Please note: the excess water use, identification and repair of problems within your private plumbing system, as well as the associated costs, are the responsibility of the property owner. If you are unable to find and repair leaks by following the steps below, or are uncomfortable operating shut-off valves, it is strongly recommended you contact a professional plumber.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Checking for Excess Consumption

Step 1: Check the Consumption Indicator on the water meter

  • Your water meter is a Neptune meter and is typically located in the basement, crawl space, utility room, or garage.
  • Ensure no water is actively being used in the house and check the consumption indicator on your water meter. It should be completely still if there is no water being used.  Here are some of the possible appearances for the consumption indicator, as shown below.
  • If your meter looks like this, the red triangle is the consumption indicator. If it is moving continuously, something at the property is continuously consuming water. Proceed to Step 2.  
  • If your meter looks like this, the red clock dial is the consumption indicator. If it is moving continuously, something at the property is continuously consuming water. Proceed to Step 2. Meter Picture Procoder Meter
  • If your meter looks like this, shine a bright flashlight for 15 to 30 second to trigger the display.  A faucet image is the consumption indicator. If it is flashing you have intermittent consumption. If it is solid something at the property is continuously consuming water. Proceed to Step 2.Meter Picture Ecoder
  • If your meter looks like this, then a faucet image is the consumption indicator. If the faucet is shown, something at the property is continuously consuming waterProceed to Step 2.Meter Picture Mach10

Step 2: Checking for private plumbing issues (other than toilets)

If your Consumption Indicator on the meter is active, the next step is to check for private plumbing issues. If the problem is related to a toilet, go to Step 3 for more information. Depending on your level of comfort with plumbing and shut-off valves, you may want to call a professional plumber to assist you

  • Check all water-using appliances and fixtures one-by-one checking the consumption indicator as you go. Turn-off valves as appropriate to isolate the problem. Appliances and fixtures include clothes washers, dishwashers, ice makers, humidifiers, boilers, irrigation systems, outside hose bibs, water softeners, showers, faucets, and especially toilets.
  • Some Sump Pumps have a water powered back-up that can be triggered during a power failure and use excessive water
  • Continue until you have isolated the faulty device(s).
  • Make your repairs or have a professional plumber make the repairs.
  • Check the consumption indicator on the meter once more to be sure the problem has been resolved.

Step 3: Checking your Toilet(s)

The most common leak in a household is caused by a faulty toilet(s). There are three ways to check for toilet leaks.

  1. Check the bowl for ripples.

  • Flush the toilet and wait five (5) minutes.
  • Check the water in the bowl for ripples.
  1. Perform a dye test.
  • Simply put a few drops of food coloring in the tank or pick up a free dye tab from Livingston Water Department at the Town Hall
  • Check the bowl in one hour 
  • Check if colored water is getting into the bowl.

If you see ripples in the bowl or if colored water is getting into the bowl, you likely have an “improper seating leak.”

This problem can be corrected, depending on the cause, by:

  • Tightening a loose handle
  • Straightening the control arm if it is rubbing
  • Replacing a sticking rod guide or ball rod
  • Cleaning a corroded valve seat
  • Replacing a faulty tank ball
  1. Check the tank.
  • Remove the top of the tank.
  • Find the overflow tube in the center of the tank.
  • Check the water level. It should be about one (1) inch below the top of the overflow.

If the water is above the overflow, you likely have a “continuous overflow leak or

This problem can be corrected, depending on the cause, by:

  • Bending the end of the float ball rod down
  • Replacing a float ball which has filled with water
  • Replacing a faulty or corroded float ball shut-off valve.