Sewer and water bills rising sharply: What can you do?

Sewer and water rates are rising across the country. Here is why and what you can do to keep your bill down.
Posted at 6:53 AM, Jun 14, 2023

Have you noticed your water and sewer bills getting higher and higher lately? People in some areas are seeing double-digit increases, and are looking for any ways they can to lower those bills.

William Turner watches every drop of water he uses these days.

That's because, he says, "We got a letter back in March warning us of a rate hike."

But it wasn't just an average rate hike.

"They are going to raise our sewer rates 120%," he said. "That's $46 to $99 a month."

The reason? Mandatory federal upgrades to aging water and sewer lines across the country. In his case, his supplier, Bluegrass Water, has been raising rates significantly throughout Kentucky in recent months.

The company did not respond to our emails but told the state's Public Service Commission it needs the rate hikes to pay for the $5 million in upgrades it is doing to sewer systems throughout the state.

But it is happening everywhere.

According to a team of water experts from Bluefield Research, the combined water and wastewater bill for the typical US household jumped more than 43% from 2012 to 2021.

That's more than 4% per year and more than any other household utility.

IRS 1040 form

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How to keep your bill down

So what can you do?

NerdWallet's Kimberly Palmer says the simplest way to start lowering your bill is to check for leaks in your home.

"It's very common to have something like a dripping faucet or a toilet that's not flushing properly," she said,

Then she says when it's time to update fixtures and appliances, look for two labels:

Dishwashers or washing machines with an "Energy Star" label will save you money on your water and electric bill. When shopping for a new toilet, faucet or showerhead, look for the EPA's "WaterSense" label.

"Often, our older appliances just are not running as efficiently. And so if you can make that upfront investment, it saves you money every single month," she said,

Another tip from NerdWallet: use the dishwasher, as it uses less water than hand washing

Finally, if you can't afford it, call the utility company. They may have an assistance program or offer more time to pay.

Turner says these hikes are more than many of his neighbors can afford.

"You gotta decide what you gotta cut to find that $50," he said.