My landlord is getting $700 water bills per month and nobody knows why. About 4 people use this water and it is about 55 thousand gallons per month.

I'd like to check how much water the dishwasher is using. It sometimes sounds like a waterfall inside of it. I'm not sure it always sounded like this.

How can I examine a dishwasher for how much water it uses during its operation? What tool can I use and where can I apply it? Or is there a better plan to make?

  • 5
    What is the recorded usage as opposed to past amounts? If this is several times as large, then you should be able to check for leaks simply by shutting down appliances for a few hours and checking the meter -- assuming you have a mechanical meter rather than the newer WiFi-only ones that have no display. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 19:33
  • 3
    Is it poor advice to suggest running the drain line into one of those 20 gallon gardening buckets to see how much water it drains per load?
    – Aww_Geez
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 19:49
  • 15
    Stop the bug hunt for which intended use is causing $700 bills. No intended use is. It's a leak. A stoutly running leak, from that number! I'd expect you could hear it! Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 22:50
  • 2
    Are you the only tenant ? (ie you/your family/etc) or are there other units on the same water meter ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 4:35
  • 7
    How much water does that actually represent, and how many people/apartments are using it?
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 8:27

8 Answers 8


This is NOT intended use

It's way too much water for any intended use.

To give you an idea, the last time I saw a $700 bill, it was from a toilet at a rarely-used facility, which had a stuck float. The valve was wide open 24x7 for 2 months. That's the kind of flow we're talking about.

For a dishwasher to have that much flow, it would have to be waterfalling 24x7, running its little pump to death. So that's not likely, due to the dishwasher's need to pump its wastewater up.

It is absolutely impossible for a dishwasher to overuse that much water during the hour or so a day it is in-use.

Outside of toilets, you'd know about any appliances leaking that much water, because their usage is obvious. You'd notice if a shower, tub or sink was running full-on.

The only things that remain are:

  • A pipe break somewhere unnoticed, like in lines under a slab, soaking into the dirt. Pay close attention to any blooms of vegetation, lush spots in the lawn, etc.
  • A tenant who has insanely or maliciously thrown water valves wide open, e.g. a vacating tenant on their way out the door. Or a hardware failure in a vacant apartment. So do a walkthrough on any vacant apartments.
  • 11
    Your last point reminds me of the Wet Bandits from the Home Alone movie franchise.
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 4:35
  • 1
    I had a similar issue with a broken water heater that was spewing water out of the overflow valve. The water bill was only a couple hundred dollars, but I don't know how much of the month it was broken for. Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 15:47

First, it's almost certainly not the fault of your dishwasher. A dishwasher has to physically pump the water out of it, and they really only hold enough water to fill the bottom. If it started to fill completely, the water would leak out all over the floor - the seals are not designed to hold back that kind of pressure.

The problem is most likely a leak or a running toilet, which can use a surprising amount of water. Every water meter has an indicator that shows water is being used, and that can help tell if you have a leak.

Now, if you really want to know how much water something is using, you can get a water hose water meter that will give you gallon-accurate water usage. The meters are cheap, but you'll also need $10-$20 in adapters to go from the water hose thread to 3/8" compression fittings or whatever you need to adapt to. Also note that those cheap meters are not rated for long-term indoor installation. Don't leave one installed because it can leak. Use it to measure the water, then take it off. To permanently install something is possible, but more expensive.

  • To be fair: if the drain valve in the dishwasher is not sealing, then the machine will draw a lot of intake water to reach the design level for each cycle. However, I see that as an unlikely scenario. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 19:31
  • 10
    @CarlWitthoft, are you sure about that? Dishwashers don't "drain" per se, they are generally lower than the drain and cannot "leak" into it. Dishwasher water is pumped out to the drain when the program calls for emptying the tub... Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 5:50
  • @JimmyFix-it Good point. It would depend on the outlet pipe from the OP's installation. Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 12:56
  • The average dishwasher uses about 6 gallons of water, so even if all the water is "leaking out" during cycles, you're still only going to see 4-5 times the usual amount - less than 30 gallons, not tens of thousands!
    – ArmanX
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 20:44

To just answer your question about how much water your dishwasher uses, unhook the drain tubing for the DW and stick it into a big bucket so you can catch the water as it drains out. You might need two buckets, one for wash and one for rinse. The drain tubing disconnect easily from a trap or the disposal. Once you get all the water in buckets, just scoop it out with a quart measuring cup and count them. I seriously doubt the problem is your dishwasher.

  • 2
    Great idea for a pretty much free way to measure the water.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 21:07
  • @JPhi1618 I'm so old school it's ridiculous, how we did it on the old days..lol
    – JACK
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 22:03
  • Not as accurate, but much faster: a bucket on a bathroom scale with 3 or 4 glasses in order to keep the display visible.
    – xeeka
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 22:17
  • 4
    You don't need precision here. If you know your bucket holds 10l and it's gets to 3/4 full you don't have a problem. if it overflows massively you do (actually 2 problems). @xeeka that works much better with mechanical scales, most digital bathroom scales don't read continuously
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 10:01

that is a very large water bill. This size of leak could easily be in the pipes in the ground before they reach the units and after the meter. To test, turn off all the water outlets (normal situation & without any dishwashers or clothes washers running). Check your meter to see if its running or not. If not obviously running, record the value and come back and check at 15 minutes and maybe even 30 minutes. If there is significant movement, the source of the trouble isn't your dishwasher and is probably the underground plumbing.

Alternately, call your utility company for help. Most of them will help, they are interested in conservation


Do you have access to the water meter? Here in Australia we have meters which have a counter on them a bit like the odometer on an older car. The faster the right most dial spins the faster the flow through it.

Turn everything off and watch how fast it spins. With everything off it shouldn't move unless there's a leak somewhere.


To me it sounds like a leak. A dishwasher once take for the wash load (around 10L) just recycles it, then take another 10L for the rinse and for any additional rinse. (usually it takes less than 50L).

In my opinion is a hidden leak (like a buried pipe) or just a toilet stuck flushing or with a worn gasket. In my case the high bill (100 m^3 excess over some years) was a leaky toilet with a worn gasket that overflowed not much so we just ignored it thinking wasn't that bad, like a almost-close tap, say 1L/min this error costed us around 100€ over 2 years.

sidenote: here tap water, including sewers and depuration costs around 1,8 €/m^3 for the baseline, with sudden increases when going over.


Not sure why you are fixated on your dishwasher but according to Google the average dishwasher uses about 6 gallons per cycle so this is really just a math problem.

6 gallons x 4 cycles per day x 30 days = 720 gallons

I don't know if 4 cycles is normal for one day but even if you doubled that then you are still well below the quoted 55,000 gallons.

There's a leak somewhere; a big one. Do you have a water-powered back-up sump pump in the basement?

If your landlord is pointing fingers then tell him your water usage has remained the same and mention the possibility of a leak in the system.


check for a leak. Make sure all tennants (how many?) are not using water and see if the water meter is still spinning. Sounds like a leak to me.

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