Is your water bill “atrociously high”? Let’s break it down. (2024)

Utility bills. Does anyone actually understand them?

They can be pretty confusing, and depending on what city you live in, your water bill might include more services than you realize.

Take one reader from Virginia Beach who recently queried the Pilot’s Glad You Asked initiative about why hers is “atrociously high,” and wondered how her city ranks.

Turns out, Virginia Beach falls in the middle of the pack. A study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission in February placed Suffolk at the top and Williamsburg at the bottom of 17 Hampton Roads localities, with Virginia Beach ranking seventh from the top, behind Norfolk and Chesapeake. The figures were average estimates for a single-family home.

Meredith Kellam, Virginia Beach’s public utilities business manager, cautioned that it’s tough to compare the fees assessed by each city because the services they provide and how they’re measured greatly vary.

Here’s how it works.

How is water consumption measured?

Chesapeake, Norfolk and Portsmouth public utilities measure usage by units of consumption. Each unit is the equivalent of 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons.

In Virginia Beach, water usage is measured in increments of 1,000 gallons.


Residents are billed bimonthly based on cycles that range between 50 and 63 days, said David Jurgens, director of utilities. Water is treated and provided by the city. The city collects wastewater, but it is treated by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, for those on city water.

Residents pay a minimum fee of $44.82 for the first six consumptions, which the equivalent is $7.47 per consumption. Every consumption after that rings in at $5.05.

In addition to water usage fees, residents are billed for sewage collection. There is also a minimum for the first six consumptions, which is $21.68, or roughly $3.61 per consumption. Each consumption collected after that costs $4.80.

For treatment, residents are charged $5.37 by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District for each consumption.


Water is billed monthly with cycles varying between 26-34 days, said department spokesman Harry Kenyon.

For water usage, residents are charged $5.11 per consumption, while water collection costs $4.30 per consumption. Residents also see charges for trash collection, billed at 92 cents per day, which includes collection of trash, recycling, yard waste and bulk collection requests.

Residents in single-family residential units also see stormwater collection costs, which are about $11.71 each month, according to the city’s website, though the total fee can vary depending on the number of days in the billing cycle. This fee goes towards maintaining sewer lines, street sweeping, environmental investigations and more.

For water treatment, Norfolk residents are billed $5.37 per consumption by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.


Residents are charged bimonthly, and like Chesapeake, cycles vary, according to city spokeswoman Dana Woodson. They also pay a meter charge of about $5 each month.

Residents pay $3.92 per consumption for water usage and about $3.07 per consumption of sewage water collected.

Portsmouth residents also see charges for waste management, which costs about $30 each month. This charge includes collection of trash, recycling, yard waste and bulk collection requests.

A utility tax of 20 percent is assessed on the meter and water served charges.

In a separate bill, Hampton Roads Sanitation District charges residents $5.37 on average for each consumption of water treated.

Virginia Beach

Residents are charged monthly and cycles are between 28-32 days, Kellam said.

Residents are charged, on average, about 14 cents per day for water service availability. For each 1,000 gallons used, residents pay $4.41, which is roughly the equivalent of $3.29 per 748 gallons, or consumption as referred to by other localities.

Stormwater fees in Virginia Beach are roughly 45 cents per day. Residents who utilize solid waste collection pay $23 each month, and the average fee for sewage collection is about $1 per day.

A tax of 20 percent of the water services is included on each bill, but is capped at $3 per month.

Like Portsmouth citizens, Virginia Beach residents receive a separate bill from the Hampton Roads Sanitation District for water treatment, which costs $5.37 per 748 gallons collected.

Other variables

In addition to the different services provided and length of billing cycles, other fees can be shown on bills for residents living in multi-family housing. In some cases, property owners can impose maintenance fees of their own.

For residents that elect flat rate accounts for water treatment through Hampton Roads Sanitation District, their fee is about $35 per month.


Hampton Roads has plenty of curiosities. Ever think of a question you wish someone would answer?

If so, we want to hear from you through Glad You Asked. Readers send questions through an online form, and our newsroom picks three at a time for an online vote. The winner becomes a story.

So what makes you wonder? Visit We’re listening.

Amy Poulter, 757-446-2705,

Is your water bill “atrociously high”? Let’s break it down. (2024)


Is it cheaper to have a water meter? ›

Having a water meter means you only pay for the water you use. So, that could either mean significant savings for your household, or bigger bills. If you don't have a water meter, it means you pay a fixed price for your water. It doesn't matter how much water you use, your water bill won't change.

How to check a water bill? ›

Query your bill by dialing *888# and select option 2 – Query Bill.

What is the average water bill for a single person in the UK? ›

Average water usage and cost
Number of people in property12
Average cost per year*£291£409
Monthly instalments£24£34
Water only
Average cost per year*£120£174
8 more rows

How much can a running toilet increase the water bill in the UK? ›

Leaking toilets, pipes and taps can cause an increase in your bill. A leaking toilet is hard to spot but can waste up to 400 litres of water a day, which could increase your water bill by around £50 a month if you're on a water meter. Find out how to check for leaks.

What happens if you don't want a water meter? ›

If you don't have a water meter, you will pay an unmeasured charge. This is often made up of a standing charge and a charge that varies. You can have an unmeasured charge based on one of these things: a flat rate charge.

What are the disadvantages of having a water meter? ›

Disadvantages of compulsory smart water meters: High installation costs: Smart water meters can be expensive to install, and some households may not be able to afford the upfront costs. This could disproportionately affect low-income households, leading to further inequalities.

How do I find my water reading? ›

On the meter face, there are two sets of numbers, black on the left and red on the right. The black numbers show the number of cubic metres used, while the red ones and the dials show litres. When you're taking the reading, you should only read the black numbers and ignore the red ones.

How can I check my water consumption at home? ›

Reading your water meter will tell you how much water you're using and whether you have a leak. Most meters are located near the curb in front of your home under a concrete lid.

How much is one unit of water in Nairobi? ›

One cubic meter is equal to 1,000 litres. Residential units using between one to six cubic meters (1,000-6,000 litres) will be charged Ksh45 for each 1,000 litre. Those who use between seven and 20 cubic meters will be charged Ksh 67, while 21 to 50 cubic meters will be charged Ksh70.

How much water does a 2 person household use per month? ›

Household MembersWater Gallons Per Month
1 more row
Sep 6, 2022

Can I get rid of my water meter? ›

If your property already has a water meter, you can't have it removed, unless you replace it with another meter.

How to calculate water usage? ›

Meters record how much water has been used. Deducting the current meter reading from the previous reading will tell you how many units of water you have used since your last meter reading. To determine your dollar amount of water consumption, multiply the units used by your current water rate.

Can a constantly running toilet cause a high water bill? ›

A continuously running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons a day or more depending on the volume flow down the drain. This can cause a terrible increase to a family's typical water use, so fix toilet leaks as soon as possible. Some leaks are easy to find, such as a dripping faucet or running toilet.

What happens if a toilet runs all night? ›

What happens if a toilet runs all night? If a toilet runs all night it will waste water and increase your water bill. Excess water can potentially flood your septic tank and lead to failure and saturation of your drain field.

Do water meters reduce water consumption? ›

Water Conservation: Smart meters encourage water conservation by providing consumers with real-time information on their water usage. Customers can identify and address excessive water usage, leaks, or wasteful habits, leading to reduced water consumption.

How much does one unit of water cost? ›

One cubic meter is equal to 1,000 litres. Residential units using between one to six cubic meters (1,000-6,000 litres) will be charged Ksh45 for each 1,000 litre. Those who use between seven and 20 cubic meters will be charged Ksh 67, while 21 to 50 cubic meters will be charged Ksh70.

Does every house have a water meter? ›

Yes. If you need help to pay we've a range of options that may help you. All properties built since 1990 have been fitted with a meter.

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