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Saving on water

The end of cheap water is here, how can renters save money?

   You don't have to live in California to know that water is a problem. Aging water and sewer systems, new environmental regulations and new threats to water quality all combine to increase rates. Last year, Toledo had to shut down their water system because of harmful algae growing in the lake. This year Columbus has expereienced water quality problems that will require additional investments in the water system.  And Conneaut  is watching for algae contamination.  HINT: additional investments means higher rates. more here and here and here.
    Landlords have reacted by trying to shift the cost of "water" to their tenants. Sometimes this comes in the form of a flat fee, which is really just a way to say "rent increase" by another name.  A flat fee surcharge does not encourage conservation because even if you change your behavior, the fee doesn't go down.  Ditto for estimated water billing systems (so called RUBS systems). Tenants end up paying a percentage of the overall water use in the apartment complex and conserving.will have minimal impact on overall usage.      So, before you decide to conserve water, ask some questions about the water bill.  
  • Does the bill come directly from the water company or does it come from a 3rd party billing company or does the landlord just tell you how much to pay?
  • Find out where you water meter is located and monitor your actual usage.  If you don't have a water meter for your rental unit, chances are you are paying an estimate based on square footage, number in the household or number of bedrooms or some other system.
  • Review what your lease says about water charges.
    However, where tenants are paying the landlord's bill for a single meter or a submeter, then taking steps to reduce your usage to lower your household expenses. Here's some tips.

  Stop wasting water.
  • Check faucets and pipes for leaks
  • Check your toilets for leaks
  • Use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks
  • Note that sink drain leaks don't waste water but they do cause mold in the dark recesses of your cabinets
Reduce water use
  • Don't use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket.
  • Take shorter showers and shallower baths.
  • Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush.
  • Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads
  • Minimize use of kitchen garbage disposal units
  • Don't let the faucet run while you clean vegetables
  • When washing dishes by hand, don't leave the water running for rinsing
Make or request water saving improvements
  • Insulate your hot water water pipes. Hot water arrives at the tap more quickly with less water waste.
  • Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators. You won't notice the difference and your usage will be reduced.
  • Reduce the amount of water in the toilet tank reduces water use. Install a low flow toilet.
    You can find more info about each of these ideas and more ideas hereand here and here:
    A tip for landlords of properties where water must be included in the rent. Use feedback on actual water usage to each tenant. Give prizes for tenants who have lower than average use and tenants who make significant reductions in usage. 
    Water will never be cheap again as the number of people who inhabit the planet is going up and19th century systems that deliver water are breaking down.  Tenants can cope with increases by sensible use.  Landlords can help by giving accurate usage info (not crude estimates) and by investing in repairs and upgrades to water saving appliances.  
    What are your questions about water costs in rental housing? Write to and thanks to Suzanne and Theresa for suggesting this topic.

 Notes & Links

Myths about water