We just received our monthly water bill for 167 CCF, which is 16,700 cubic feet or 125,000 gallons (nearly $1000!). This volume is equivalent to a pond 5 foot deep and 33 feet in diameter. We live on a small suburban lot (6000 sqft) in a modest 3BR-2BA single story ranch house with 2 small kids and 2 adults and a small yard (no pool). The house was recently renovated (1 year ago), including new plumbing and fixtures. For the past 3 years we typically use approx 10 CCF/month. the most we've ever used is 20 CCF/month when we got new lawn put in 6 months ago.

I think the 167 CCF/month (or approx 3 gal/min) is nearly impossible but the water meter seems to work and the numbers match what is on the bill. I verified that the meter doesn't spin until I turn on a faucet in the house. I crawled around under the house and it's completely dry. What could this be? Could the meter have skipped forward somehow (seems unlikely). I saw an estimate that a running toilet is ~6000 gallons per month, which would be 21 toilets (we have 2). I don't even think someone could steal that much water without a tanker truck.

Any thoughts on what this could be and/or suggestions on how to dispute it with the water company?


to clarify for some of the comments: I've confirmed that the meter currently seems to be working properly--meaning that it only advances when I open a faucet. I also confirmed that the numbers on the bill match the numbers on the meter so I don't think there is a simple error in reading the meter. We've called the water company and in 3-5 days they will come and check it out, but as far as I can tell everything is OK now. So, despite the ridiculous magnitude and near impossibility of accidentally wasting 125,000 gallons of water, unless I can figure out what went wrong I'm afraid they're just going to charge us $1000.


The water department checked out our meter and we spoke with several helpful people about our situation. Apparently everything is fine now from their point of view. We can have the meter tested by a 3rd party but if it's OK then we have to pay for it. In general they were nice but not too sympathetic since burst pipes and other freak water losses are not uncommon--albeit not with our magnitude and not from an unknown source that magically fixes itself. So, it seems like this will remain an unsolved (and expensive) mystery. Thanks for all of your helpful suggestions and comments.

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    Turn off everything in the house and read the meter, wait 15 minutes and check again. Did it move? If not, start reading your meter 3 or 4 times a day (before work, after work, before bed, etc) and keep record until you figure it out. Also that's such great usage your water dept should help you figure it out, have you called and asked for help yet?
    – Tyson
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 12:49
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    So protest the bill. It's far more likely to be a meter or meter-reading error. Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 13:28
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    Tyson hit it on the head. If there is an actual problem such as broken pipe, running toilet, etc. You will be able to determine that within 1 hour. At the rate of consumption stated on the bill you will see a huge jump from one hour to the next. Read your meter, wait an hour, read it again. If it is consistent with the bill you need to start trouble shooting right away as you will be responsible for the water bill most likely now and until it's fixed. If after the hour you see no or little change, then simple contact your water company and have them re-read your meter. Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:55
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    ...continued... I worked for an electric company in customer service for many years and we had sent meter readers back for rechecks in cases like this as standard practice. I'm sure your water company would do the same. If not, they may have you hold off payment until the next time it was read and adjust your bill. Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 15:00
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    Just to clarify my comment after reading your edit. The meter read leak test needs to take place over a period of time, not just turning everything off and checking that the meter is not moving, it needs to not move over a period of time, say 15,30 or 60 minutes.
    – Tyson
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


Not so much a solution as something to check, but our first home had galvanized pipe leading up to the house bibb. This was buried about 24" under the front lawn.

The pipe had been slowly turning to rusty mush until one morning it finally gave out and left the front yard a muddy mess. We really didn't have any indication that it had been previously leaking prior to that, but that pipe was useless when I pulled it out. I could easily snap off pieces by hand. Point being, this had been under way for some time.

We did notice a drop in water usage, but nothing as significant as you noted. I just wanted to point out a possibility of what may be happening.

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