A Guide to Your Water Bill and Service
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) developed this fact sheet to help you better understand your water bill and service since Ohio law requires certain information to be included on a water bill.
Regulated versus non-regulated water companies
Not all water companies in Ohio are regulated by the state. Water service that comes from municipal, county, water district, or cooperative is not. State-regulated companies are typically operated as for-profit corporations and pay income tax based upon their sales and other financial variables. If a consumer needs to contact their water service provider, see the utility bill or try contacting the municipality or governing body.
Usage and meter reading
Water usage is either measured in hundred cubic feet (Ccf) or gallons (gal).
Water companies may read a consumer’s meter to get an exact amount of water used or estimate how much water they use each billing cycle by looking at the same period in past years. Consumers can request an actual meter reading at any time.
Fees and charges
You will see several charges on your bill that help account for the total amount due.
- Service Charges – a fixed, monthly charge that each customer pays for receiving service. Generally, there is a charge for both water and wastewater (sewer) service;
- Water Volume – the amount of water used multiplied by the rate charged for water;
- Wastewater Volume – the amount of water that was used or emptied into the sewer system multiplied by the rate charged for sewer services; and
- Other Current Charges – charges for a line protection program or for water softening provided by the water company could be listed.
Required items on bills
Water companies are required to list certain information on your bill, such as the name on the account, the address, and the account number. Water companies are also required to include actual or estimated reading, the address for payments, payment due dates, dates of service, late charges or credits, and contact information for the company. Note that a rate schedule for service or a statement of the rate schedule should be made available upon request.
Reading your bill
Consumers should read their bill each month to know what charges appear on the bill and your normal water usage. The company may also place important notices and other updates on the bill.
Rates are determined by different variables, including the system size, number of years the current rate has been in effect, and water treatment processes.
Consumers are responsible for repairs to the service line as well as all pipes inside the residence. The service line runs from the curb to the residence. All other lines are the water system’s responsibility. The water company owns the meter, but any damage that occurs to it is the customer’s responsibility.
According to Ohio law, a minimum pressure of 35 pounds per square-inch (psi) must be maintained in the distribution system. If consumers experience a drop in water pressure, they should contact the water company immediately and should not consume any tap water.
Water can become discolored due to lower than normal water pressure, issues with plumbing in the home, as well as routine flushing of the distribution system in the area, or a water main break. Contact the water company before drinking or using any discolored water.
If none of the above has occurred, the company may be having problems at its treatment plant with iron or manganese removal. Check with the company to confirm. Regardless, request that the water company investigate the problem and possibly flush the distribution system. The company should notify all affected consumers before flushing the system.
Water can also appear cloudy when it comes from the tap because it is no longer under pressure and the dissolved air is released as bubbles. As the bubbles rise and disappear, the water clears. If hard white particles remain, the water heater may need maintenance or repair.
Hard water & water softening
Calcium and magnesium typically cause water hardness. Consumers can contact their water company to determine if it provides softened water. The Ohio EPA does not require that water be softened by water companies.
Consumers may want to consider purchasing a water softener if the water company does not soften the water. Water that is softened is recommended to have a finished hardness of 120-150 mg/L (7-9 grains per gallon). It can be softened to as low as 80 mg/liter (5 grains per gallon). Any lower and consumers run the risk of corrosive water and other problems.
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