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What you should do if you get an unusually high water bill

If you've received an unusually high water bill, you've likely felt the sudden panic that goes along with it. Here are some tips to help you navigate through it.

HOUSTON — If you get an unusually high water bill, there's a good chance you're going to be scrambling to find out what you can do to get it lowered.

What steps should you take?

First, you should check your usage, which should be on your bill. Check to see if your water rates have gone up by doing the math.

Next, check to see if your bill shows that you used more water than in previous months. If so, you'll need to figure out why that happened.

You can start by looking for common household issues that could be contributing to using more water than expected.

Plumbers suggest these tips:

  • Check your toilet -- is it running after you flush it?
  • Check for dripping faucets. It might not seem like much, but you can use this drip calculator to see if you have an issue.
  • Check for leaks. Experts say the easiest and cheapest way to do it is if you're able to access your water meter. They say you should start by making sure your faucets are off and then read the meter. Wait two to three hours and then check again. If the meter doesn't read the same, you *probably* have a leak.

If you reach that point, it's time to call a plumber. They're able to perform in-depth tests that will help you figure out if you have a hidden leak -- in your walls or under your home -- and, ultimately, repair the problem.

Finally, if you've checked your meter and looked for leaks and can't find any evidence, it's time to call your utility provider. They'll be able to check the meter itself to see if it's been damaged or if there's something else wrong with it.

It sometimes can be hard to find out who to call, so start with your bill or look online for a service number to call and ask for any help related to high bills.

Certain utility providers, such as the City of Houston, allow you to set up daily and monthly water usage alerts that are sent directly to your email. They also may have financial support for people in need who are facing unexpectedly high bills.

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