Novelist | Singer
We had a funny thing happen the other day. We discovered that we’ve been paying for somebody else’s water for seven years. Thankfully the new neighbors downstairs have been taking long, hot showers that made a significant difference in the quantity from the neighbors before them – not that I support wasting water – just the opposite. My husband and I are about the most conservative water consumers I know.
We never, never just let the water run, for example, when brushing our teeth or washing vegetables. We use the dishwasher sparingly. We have a rain barrel for outside watering. We even use a bucket under the bathtub spout to catch the first several gallons of cold water before it warms up enough to stand under the showerhead, then use that water to flush the toilet. We get two free flushes per day. Not a big deal, but it adds up, as we saw with the bill.
We live in a two condo house. We own the top floor and our co-owner lives in Cambridge and rents out the bottom floor. Since we bought our condo in 2007, Al has mentioned the high cost of the water on several occasions, but we simply attributed it to high water bills. Gloucester has some of the highest in the country. So we started using the bucket, never running the water, bought a rain barrel – anything to save water and ourselves some money. It’s also just the right thing to do.
New neighbors moved in downstairs in October, and in December we received notification from the city that our water usage had increased substantially. A meter reader from the city came over and showed us our meter. It was moving slightly, he said. You must have a leak. But there’s no water anywhere, we insisted. Next, we got the quarterly bill of $450.00. They were right. That’s a substantial increase in usage.
So we had a little powwow. New neighbors had moved in about the time the water bill went up. Maybe something is connected to that, but what? We talked to them, and they did admit to using a lot of water. Finally, we decided to check the meter. I simply wanted to see the little wheel going ‘round and ‘round when we were using water.
I was in the cellar and Al was on the phone turning the water on and off. “Yes, it’s going around,” I would say, and then, “It just stopped. Yep, that’s the right meter.”
“What?” Al said. “They said it was the left meter.”
“Nope, it was the right meter that moved.”
Just then, the toilet on the first floor flushed and the other meter started to move. Proof. And those few seconds explained a whole lot.
We’re hoping to recoup the almost $3000.00 that we’ve been over-paying to the city, but the lesson has been learned. If you are living in a place with multiple meters, check them. Make sure that you are paying for the utilities you are using. We’ve been paying for two, three and sometimes four people’s use of water. They were all renters and most likely did not conserve the way a home owner would. It’ll be nice to start paying reasonable water bills, too. And we might just take a vacation with that rebate, but I can think of better ways to save money. Check your meters.