High water bill and leaks

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Why is my water bill suddenly high?

There are several possible explanations. It could be due to higher water usage because of:

  • A change in the household (such as new tenants, new owners, more people, visitors).
  • New appliances (such as a water-cooled air conditioner, humidifier, dishwasher, hot water tank, heating system, lawn sprinkler system).
  • You may have some plumbing problems or leaks.
  • More time spent at home.
  • It could be a catch-up bill, which can occur when an actual meter reading is missed, an outside remote is not working, or after a change in occupancy.
  • Higher seasonal demands.

The homeowner is responsible for all water usage, including water consumed by leaks, which will be charged to the water utility account.

There have been no changes at my household. Why has my usage increased?

If your water utility bill is significantly higher than usual, without a change in household occupancy, appliances, habits or activities, there could be a leak. The best indicator in determining if you have a leak is to consult your water meter readings. If your water meter is recording consumption at every hour, overnight or when water usage is typically low or non-existent, it is extremely likely there is a leak.

There are several ways you can check if you have a leak:

  • The recommended method is to check your hourly readings through My ServiceOttawa. If you do not have an account, you may register for one. Once logged in, select “Usage” in the left-hand pane. If water usage is being recorded at every hour, overnight or at a time where zero or low amounts of water are used, there is likely a leak.
  • Read your water meter before retiring for the evening and read it again in the morning to see if the reading changed. Water meters are generally located in the basement of your house, usually on the front wall. Your meter will display a six to nine-digit number depending on the model of the meter installed in your home. If your meter is digital, you will need to shine a light on the meter dial for a few seconds for the number to display. Water consumption is recorded in cubic metres (m³). If you are unable to find your meter, call us as we may have location information on file.
  • Turn off all fixtures and appliances that use water and check the leak detector indicator - the red triangle or flow indicator on your water meter for movement. There is a leak if it continues to move even though all water fixtures and appliances are turned off.

I’ve determined there’s a leak, what do I do?

The most likely place for a leak is the toilet. To check for leaks in your toilet, add a few drops of food colouring, cold cup of black coffee or brewed tea to the water in the tank. Wait a few minutes. If without flushing the toilet, the colour appears in the bowl your toilet has a leak that should be repaired immediately. A toilet that continues to run after flushing, if the leak is large enough, can waste up to 200,000 litres of water in a single year!

Other common places for leaks are faucets and showerheads. Make sure the sink or tub is dry, insert the plug into the drain, wait, check the sink or tub from time to time. You have a leak if water starts to pool in the sink or tub. Don't forget to check all bathrooms, the kitchen and outside taps. Outdoor hoses and faucets are another common source of leaks due to our freeze/thaw weather patterns and being placed out of sight.

The property owner is responsible for all plumbing repairs and maintenance, and the City is not responsible for internal plumbing leaks or their assessment.

Check out this short video on common water leak sources:


Manage consumption and get notified of abnormal water usage

Register for consumption alerts through your My ServiceOttawa account by selecting “Alert subscription” on the left-hand pane. Users can opt to receive email alerts notifying them of consistent usage over seven consecutive days or when usage exceeds their average daily use and much more! You can also choose to set the daily amount yourself for which you wish to receive an alert. Users can also examine their consumption by checking their hourly and daily reads and can compare their prior billing usages. For more information, please refer to the View and manage your account webpage. 

Descriptive video: Water Management 101 – Where can I find water leaks?

The scene begins with upbeat, electronic pop music that plays throughout the entire video. There are no lyrics to the music.

At the top of the screen, the words “Water Management 101 – Where can I find water leaks?” appear briefly in bold, black text. These words are panned off the screen upwardly and replaced with the image of a metal pail that is approximately half full of water and filling slowly by a water drip from above the pail. The sound of dripping water can be heard over the music. Text appears on the screen in black font – “Small household leaks can add up to large amounts of wasted water and money”

Both the image of the bucket and the text are swiped off the screen upwardly and replaced with the words “Notice unusual consumption? Check these common water leak sources first:”. These words are then zoomed out into the upper left part of the screen, and the image of a water meter appears below. A ticking sound can be heard over the music, similarly to a clock, indicating that the water meter is always spinning and recording water consumption.

A new screen is presented with the image of the face of a water meter. The face of the water meter shows a dial that continues to rotate clockwise and a 2-digit counter that continues to accumulate value. This counting water meter image remains fixed in the upper-left of the screen until the conclusion of the video, illustrating that water leaks never stop until they are identified and fixed.

The image of a toilet appears to the right of the moving water meter dial. The toilet appears to be leaking from underneath. The word “toilets” appear at the bottom of the screen in black text.

The image of the toilet is replaced by the images of a bathtub and a dual-basin sink to the right of the bathtub. Water appears to be running from the faucets in the bathtub and sink, with the sound of running water being projected over the electronic music. Water then appears to be leaking from both the bottom of the bathtub and the sink, pooling on the floor. The water meter dial never stops or slows down. At the bottom of the screen, the text “Sinks, showers and tubs” appears in black text.

The image of the bathtub and sink is then replaced with the image of an outdoor water sprinkler spraying water. Running water can once again be heard. The water meter dial keeps spinning. The digital counter keeps accumulating value. The words “Outdoor hoses, sprinklers and faucets” appears at the bottom of the screen. Below the water sprinkler is the image of pooling water from what appears to be a leak.

The image of the outdoor water sprinkler is then replaced with the image of a furnace humidifier. The water meter dial continues. The words “Furnace humidifiers” appear at the bottom of the screen. Below the furnace humidifier is the image of pooling water from what appears to be a leak.

The screen is wiped but the image of the running water meter dial remains fixed. The text “Every cubic metre counts” is displayed to the right of the water meter dial.

A new screen appears. The image of a computer monitor is displayed in a new screenshot with a red background. The text “Visit My ServiceOttawa to manage your usage and alerts” is displayed on the screen. The image of the computer monitor is replaced with a screenshot of the my serviceottawa.ca login page, which then shows the water billing account overview page. Highlighted on the water billing account overview page is “Usage” and “Alert Subscriptions” on the left side, indicating that this is where someone would go to manage alerts and subscriptions.

The image is replaced by “my service (dot) ottawa.ca” in white text over a red background as the only thing left of the page. This is then replaced by the City of Ottawa logo. The video concludes with the music stopping and the image of the City of Ottawa logo fading to black screen.