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How can I tell how much water I’m using in my home?

Gareth McGrath

So you want to know how much water you’re using — and how much it’s going to cost you?

That might be harder than you think.

If you’re on a municipal system, then you’ve likely got a water meter.

Assuming you can find it, since some are in the ground while others are attached to the side of a home, then you have to figure out how to read it.

That could be difficult.

While most systems bill their customers based on thousands of gallons used, some older meters measure water use in cubic feet. One hundred cubic feet equals 748 gallons.

Other meters measure usage in gallons. But customers have to drop zeros to know how much water they’ve actually used.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority offers a tip sheet on how to read several of the common water meters used in their system.

Customers also have to know the fee schedule charged by their utility. Most have a base fee and then add a charge per thousand gallons used. Some also charge heavy water users more to promote conservation.

Cape Fear, for example, has a three-tiered system.

Sewer fees also are often included in the same bill.

If you don’t feel like becoming a part-time meter reader or are on a private well, there’s another way to gauge your water use.

That’s by keeping track of how much water you’re using in your house using some typical averages for domestic activities, like taking a shower or doing your laundry.

Several government agencies and environmental groups offer such “consumption calculators.”

One such simple-to-use tool has been prepared by the U.S. Geological Society.

For example, a typical bath uses 50 gallons of water while a dishwasher uses 20 gallons per load.

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