Meter Mystery

I’m dealing with a bit of a mystery today. I got my water bill in the mail, and it showed that I used 19,000 gallons of water more than I did a year ago, and 11,000 more than last month when I was watering every day. (I didn’t water at all during this billing cycle.)

Apparently, when the billing people saw the hefty usage, they sent a meter reader here to check the meter to see if there was leak somewhere, but they meter wasn’t spinning, which showed no water being used. At first, I thought they were referring to the extra water I was using to water my grass, but when I got the bill, I saw what they did — a huge amount of water being used. Also, I found out today that when they reread the meter, just a couple of days after the first reading, I’d used an additional 3,000 gallons, which is more than I generally use in a month.

One thing they suggested (because their electronic readers supposedly have an accuracy rate of 99.9%, so it can’t possibly be a reading error) is that I have an intermittent leak. Huh? I’d think you either have a leak or don’t. Leaks don’t repair themselves temporarily. They also thought that perhaps someone was stealing my water, though I don’t see how that is possible, either. I only have two outside faucets, both of which are attached to hoses (because I thought I’d need to water my grass occasionally this winter). I also have the faucets wrapped in insulation, so it wouldn’t be easy to get to them to turn on the water. (It’s not even easy for me to get to them!) Besides, with the snow we had, I could tell no one had been in my yard. Their third suggestion was that the 19,000 gallons came from the faucet I let drip on the subzero nights, but I know for a fact that uses less than five gallons, not the thousands they said it could use.

I eventually ended the call, leaving her as bewildered as I am. She said she will check with the meter reader again (as well as tell him where I’d stashed the tool he left behind when he read the meter) and see if he can think of anything, though basically, all he can do is read the meter again.

Luckily, I have a contractor on call. He’ll send someone over this evening to see if they can find a problem I might not be able to see.

I did think of one possibility for him to check: the dishwasher water lines. I haven’t used the dishwasher for a couple of years, and I recently started again, partly because I wanted to make sure it would still work, but mostly because it’s easier to stash the dishes in the machine than to dry them by hand. I only use it every five or six days, so if somehow there is a 3,000 gallon per use leakage rate, that would add up to the extra 19,000 gallons. But still, wouldn’t I hear all that water swishing through the lines?

One way or another, the contractor will help me figure this out. Meantime, I have a dishwasher full of dishes that I’m afraid to wash.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.