Our condo's (12 units, 2 buildings) water usage went from $300 to $3000 in a few months. We don't have separate water shutoffs to test each unit. Nobody's reporting any visible leaks. Any idea how to proceed? We are going to go bankrupt at this rate.

  • Do you have schemes of the plumbing? Could you even install a flow meter? I would get the water company out and see if they can provide a way for you to easily read the main branch meter. You need to see if this is constant or off and on. – DMoore Sep 4 '13 at 3:54
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    Cats? – RedGrittyBrick Sep 4 '13 at 13:23
  • Have any other utilities like electricity gone up too? – Steven Sep 8 '13 at 20:21
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    Impossible to answer without more information. Are you talking water usage or hot water usage? – Matt Sep 9 '13 at 4:51
  • Water usage. And the other utilities are separate. – denten Sep 19 '13 at 21:02

You could install flow meters on each unit and bill them separately.

  • How difficult / expensive is it to install separate flow meters? – denten Sep 4 '13 at 22:42
  • @denton: Certainly less than $18,000, which is apparently what you'll have paid in water bills in a six months if you don't do something soon – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Sep 9 '13 at 15:38
  • Looking into this. Separate meters not possible. Converted single family into 6 units. The pipes are in the walls and each unit may have multiple connections. – denten Sep 18 '13 at 7:29

I seriously doubt that this is a small-scale leak like a running toilet or a dripping faucet. If a 12-unit water meter is reporting 10x the normal usage, that's like 100+ apartments' worth of water that's unaccounted for. That would be hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per month. There's no way it's just dribbling inside some wall.

(I assume this isn't something seasonal like an irrigation system for a golf course, or filling up swimming pools...?)

My guess is that either your water meter is broken or there is a serious break in your water main. Either way I could call the water company immediately.

(You might also double-check the bills to make sure you're really being billed for a ton of water and not something else like equipment fees or late payment charges. The bill should tell you how much water you're being charged for, usually measured in hundred cubic feet, "HCF".)

  • We are in NYC. No swimming pools or irrigation here. The water company will only inspect the meters. Thinking of hiring a leak detection company. – denten Sep 18 '13 at 7:28
  • OK, I still feel like there is basically no chance that your water usage has increased 10x because of a minor residential leak. My guess is a broken meter or a very large leak underground. – Hank Sep 19 '13 at 0:00

Is it possible that they were billing estimated usage which was too low for a long time (many months or years) and then when they finally sent someone to actually read the meter they needed to do a big adjustment? Was the usage really high more than one month in a row?

  • Good thought. Every bill should say whether the meter read was an "Actual" or "Estimated" reading. I'd be surprised if they went more than a few months between actual meter reads but who knows. – Hank Sep 9 '13 at 16:26
  • We have two brownstones. The other building has remained at $300-400/month level. This rules out the idea of adjustment, although a good thought. – denten Sep 18 '13 at 7:27
  • @denten: Sorry, this doesn't explain anything. You are asking what the reason is that you are getting charged $3000 in stead of $300. I am saying the actual usage could have been say $500 for 14 months, followed by a large "true-up". If you believe that you really could be consuming $3000 worth of water in one month, then you should also believe it is possible you have been consuming $500 of water every month for a year. – ThePopMachine Sep 18 '13 at 15:15

Without separate shutoff valves installing individual meters would require knocking down walls, which is not feasible in a condo.

The best option seems to be to hire a leak detection company.


Turn off the main valve and see if the meter is still turning. If it is...you have a leak underground.

  • If the main shut-off valve is off and the water meter is running that means there is a problem with the shut-off. If there was an underground leak and the shut-off was off then it would continue to leak until the pipe was empty... – DMoore Sep 10 '13 at 3:39

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