How Much Is the Average Water Bill, and What Can I Afford?

Water, food and other necessities should take up no more than 50% of your monthly income.
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Written by Lauren Schwahn
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Water and other utilities are included in monthly rent payments for some tenants. But if you’re a homeowner or water services aren’t written into your lease agreement, it’s up to you to foot the bill.

How much should you budget for water? Here’s how much you can expect to spend and how to keep water bill costs under control.

How much does the average water bill cost?

The average American family spends more than $1,000 per year on water costs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That translates to about an $83 monthly water bill.

You can use this as a place holder when planning your budget. However, you may pay a higher or lower amount based on your household’s water consumption and how much you’re able to afford.

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How much should I spend on my water bill?

The size of your water bill generally depends on two main factors: where you live and how much water you consume. A couple of quick calculations can help you work out the price and whether it’s manageable.

Estimate your monthly water usage

Some utility companies charge a flat fee regardless of how much water you use. More commonly, you’ll pay a certain rate per gallon. The cost may increase during high-demand times, such as warm summer months or drought periods. Ask your local utility provider how its rate structure works.

The average American uses 88 gallons of water a day, per the EPA. Multiply that by the number of people in your household. Then, multiply that by your provider’s service rate and number of days in the billing cycle to get an idea of how much your water bill will cost each month. You can also reference past bills for your typical usage and spending.

Calculate how much you can afford using the 50/30/20 rule

The 50/30/20 rule is a popular budgeting technique that recommends spending about 50% of your monthly after-tax income on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings and debt payments. Water service and other basic utilities fall under the “needs” category.

Here’s how that budget might look for someone with a $4,000 monthly income:

  • $2,000 for utilities (including water), rent, groceries and other needs.

  • $1,200 for wants like travel and designer clothing.

  • $800 for savings and debt repayment.

Sticking with this example, a person who spends $1,000 each month on rent, $450 on car payments and insurance, and $350 on groceries could comfortably spend up to $200 on water and other necessities. But this guidance won’t fit every situation. If your expenses exceed the 50/30/20 percentages, set your own spending limits or find ways to save money.

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Ways to lower your water bill

If you’re burdened with a high water bill, try keeping your usage down to save money. Here are a few ways to conserve water and reduce your bill:

  • Fix leaks. Check faucets, showerheads and sink and toilet valves for water drips. A showerhead that leaks at a rate of 10 drips per minute wastes over 500 gallons a year, according to the EPA.

  • Take shorter showers. Each minute you trim off your shower saves about 2.5 gallons of water.

  • Replace old appliances and fixtures. Upgrade outdated items such as your dishwasher, washing machine and faucets to ones with a WaterSense or Energy Star efficiency label. This can be costly upfront, but will save water and money in the long run.