Why Is My Sewer Bill So High Right Now? Experts Weight In

Updated: Jun. 27, 2024

If your community has fluctuating sewer rates, you might be wondering: "Why is my sewer rate so high?" Our experts have answers.

I’ve been living on rural properties with well water and septic systems for most of my adult life, so I never wondered: “Why is my sewer bill so high?” In fact, I had no idea what a sewer bill really was until experts Al Ruggie and Josh Rudin of ASAP Restoration in Phoenix and Asif Bux of Calgary-based Comfort Union brought me up to speed.

“It’s related to the water bill, but it is literally a function of how much goes back down the sewer line,” Ruggie told me. It can fluctuate, but that depends on where you live and how the rate is calculated.

Ruggie shared his experience: “I recently planted more than 100+ trees, shrubs and ground covers. In Phoenix, Arizona, this requires around 10,000 gallons per month to keep them alive for 110+ degree days during the summer.” While his water bill was significantly higher during this period, his sewage bill stayed the same because the extra water was absorbed into the ground and never made it to the drain.

No one wants to pay more money on utilities than necessary, so if your sewer bill is higher than normal, you probably want to know why. You’ll find some possible reasons ahead.

What Is a Sewer Bill?

Bux explains that a sewer bill is distinct from a water bill, though they are often issued together. “Your water bill charges you for the water you use, measured in units such as gallons or cubic feet, whereas the sewer bill is for the treatment and disposal of wastewater. The sewer bill is calculated based on the volume of water that enters your home since most of this water eventually leaves through the sewer system.”

This may not be the case for everyone, however. This explanation doesn’t fit Ruggie’s experience, whose sewer bill remained unchanged despite a drastic increase in water usage. Rudin offers a reason for this: “There are some older neighborhoods (in Phoenix) that allow flood irrigation, and it’s possible that they have a different setup for their sewage bill.” Rudin confirms that a major leak that raised his water bill by over $1,000 had no effect on his sewer bill. This wouldn’t necessarily be the case in every community, however.

How Are Sewer Bills Calculated?

As an example, the City of San Mateo, CA levies a sewer service charge on the annual property tax bill. The city’s website states: “This charge is calculated directly from the volume of freshwater used by each parcel and the estimated intensity of the resulting wastewater. A per-dwelling unit fee also applies to residential properties, while the usage-based fee is significantly lower.”

To calculate a usage-based fee, the municipality must have a way of measuring sewage outflow, and not every community has a metering system in place that can do this. In such communities, the sewage bill is typically tied to the water bill, which means that the more water you use, the higher your sewage bill will be.

What Is a Normal Sewer Bill?

Some communities, such as Santa Cruz, CA — where I live — levy a flat rate sewer charge, but in communities where it’s based on water usage or metered directly, it can fluctuate from $20 to $140 per month. In these communities, a normal rate would likely be an average between these limits or about $80 per month.

What Could Be Causing My Sewer Bill Increase?

If you don’t pay a flat rate for sewer services, but instead pay a usage-based fee, you might be wondering: Why is my sewer bill so high this month? Bux suggests several reasons:

Increased Water Usage

If your household’s water consumption has spiked, this will directly impact your sewer charges. Activities such as filling a swimming pool, increased use of water-intensive appliances, or even leaks can lead to higher water usage.

Water Leaks

Undetected leaks in your plumbing system can significantly contribute to a higher sewer bill. Leaks in toilets, faucets, or even underground pipes can waste considerable water.

Faulty Metering

Sometimes, the problem lies with the water meter itself. A malfunctioning or inaccurate water meter can lead to incorrect billing.

Sewer Line Issues

Blockages or damages in your sewer line can also cause problems. Tree root intrusion, pipe collapse, or severe blockages can cause backups and lead to increased charges for maintenance and repairs.

Utility Rate Changes

The higher bill may not be due to increased water usage but to changes in your utility company’s rates. It’s worth checking if there have been recent increases in sewer rates or changes in billing policies.

Stormwater Infiltration

In some regions, stormwater can enter the sewer system, leading to higher volumes of water being processed. If your property has improper drainage systems or your area experiences heavy rainfall, this can contribute to higher sewer charges.

How to Reduce My Sewer Bill

If your community levies a flat rate for sewer usage, you shouldn’t have to worry about spikes in your bill, but if you’re charged a usage-based fee, you may be wondering how to reduce it. Bux has you covered with these recommendations:

Conduct a Water Usage Audit

Analyze your water usage patterns to identify any unusual increases. Perhaps, like Ruggie, you’ve been watering a new landscape, or maybe you’re trying to help your lawn survive a heat wave.

Inspect for Leaks

You don’t have to have a catastrophic leak to hike your water usage. A single dripping faucet or running toilet can waste gallons of water every day. Regularly check your plumbing system for leaks. Use dye tests to detect toilet leaks and watch for dripping faucets.

Conduct Regular Maintenance

Schedule routine inspections and maintenance of your sewer lines to prevent blockages and ensure they are in good condition.

Monitor Utility Bills

Keep an eye on your utility bills for any rate changes or unusual charges. The answer to the question “Why is my sewer bill so high?” might simply be that the utility company raised its rates, and these rate changes aren’t always published in places where you can easily find them.


Is water and sewer the same bill?

It depends on where you live. Some communities base the sewer bill on water usage, and some don’t. If you aren’t sure, check with your local water authority.

Why is my sewer bill higher than my water bill?

This is normal in many communities. According to the Boothbay Harbor Sewage District in Maine, that’s because wastewater standards and the costs of treating wastewater have risen over the years.

About the Experts

  • Josh Rudin is a Certified Restorer and the manager of ASAP Restoration LLC in Phoenix, AZ.
  • Al Ruggie is the marketing director for ASAP Restoration LLC.
  • Asif Bux is the owner and service manager of Comfort Union, a plumbing and electrical service based in Calgary, AB.