How to lower water and sewer bills--information for people who rent and receive an OWASA bill



Above: Water use in a home


There are dozens of ways to save water and reduce your OWASA bills 

But some conservation methods and investments will save more water and dollars than others. We recommend checking your water bills monthly to monitor your water use. If your water use goes up unexpectedly, the cause may be a leak in a toilet, faucet, pipe, etc.

The information below is intended to help you choose the best ways to conserve water and thereby lower your water and sewer costs.  

Toilet flushing is the largest water use inside a home

Toilet flushing accounts for more than one-fourth of indoor water use at residences. So reducing the amount of water you flush is usually the best way to reduce your water and sewer bills.


How to flush less water

  • Put a container of water in the tank. To keep the container from moving, you can put metal, stones, etc. inside. Or, fill the container with water to a level higher than the water in the tank. The container should be placed carefully in the tank so it does not interfere with the flapper, fill valve, flush lever, chain, etc.
  • Ask the property manager or maintenance staff about adjusting the fill valve so that the tank will hold less water.
  • You can flush less often (when you feel it is necessary).


Some research indicates that leaks account for 14% of residential water use. 

  • Check regularly for leaks in water pipes, toilets, hoses, spigots, faucets, dishwashers, clothes washers, etc. 
  • Toilets are one of the most common places for leaks, which can waste a large amount of water (possibly more than 100,000 gallons in a month).
  • To check a toilet, put food dye in the tank and wait 15 to 20 minutes without flushing. If dye appears in the bowl, there is a leak (probably at the flapper or fill valve).
  • When you replace a flapper, get one for use in water systems that use chloramines for disinfection.
  • Whether you receive a bill from OWASA or from a private company, please review your bills for unexpected increases in water use, which may indicate there is a leak somewhere in the plumbing system or in a fixture.

If you find and fix a leak

Please contact our Customer Service staff at 919-537-4343 or to ask about getting a credit on your OWASA bill. The credit for fixing a leak does not cover all of the cost of the leaked water, so it is to your advantage to fix leaks promptly.

Showering and bathing

Take short showers (5 minutes or less). For extra savings, you can turn off the water while you lather and scrub. Showering for 5 minutes will also use much less water than a bath, which may use 40 gallons or more.

Water-saving showerheads

Showerheads are normally marked to show how much water they use with water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. For example, a showerhead labeled “2.5 gpm” has a rating of 2.5 gallons per minute.

  • If your showerheads are rated at 2.5 gallons or more per minute, you may wish to ask the property manager whether you or the maintenance staff may install showerheads that use less water.
  • Proper installation is necessary to prevent leaks. If you are allowed to install a showerhead, get advice and guidance from someone who knows how to do so with the proper tool, sealing tape for the pipe threads, etc.
  • Using less hot water will also lower your energy use and costs.

Washing clothes and dishes

Wash dishes and clothes when you have a full load.


Turn off the water when not needed to brush your teeth, wash hands, etc. Install an aerator or a more efficient one to reduce water flow at a faucet.

Saving water for plants

Before you take a shower, catch the cold to lukewarm water that initially comes out the faucet or showerhead. You can also save water from washing dishes or hand-washing clothes, etc.

Location of water shut-off valve

If there is a water shut-off valve in the plumbing system for your residence, please make sure you know where it is so you can quickly turn off the water if you have a leak.

You may need to ask the property management or maintenance staff about the location of the shut-off valve if there is one for your residence.


For a brochure including a brightly colored paper tag (shown above) to mark the location of the shut-off, please contact us at 919-968-4421 or

You can get our lowest water rates by conserving 

OWASA has “tiered” water rates, which rise with the level of water use. For example, if you use 2,000 or fewer gallons per month, our lowest rate applies: $2.63 per 1,000 gallons.

If you use 3,000 to 5,000 gallons, our second lowest rate applies: $6.39 per 1,000 gallons. Water rates are higher for using 6,000 gallons or more per month.

How does your water use compare?

Monthly water use in an apartment or condominium averages about 3,000 gallons per month.

Of course, your water use may differ from this average due to factors such as the number of people in the household and the water-efficiency of toilets, showerheads, washers, etc. Toilets installed before 1994 may use two to three times as much water as models now available.

Reducing hot water use will also lower your energy costs 

Using less hot water for showers and baths, washing clothes and dishes, etc. will also help reduce electric and gas bills. On average, hot water use accounts for about 17% of energy use in a residence.

Water use and greenhouse gas emissions 

All water and wastewater is pumped and most of the energy for pumping comes from fossil fuels. So conserving water reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a key factor in climate change. In providing 3,000 gallons of water and sewer service per month, OWASA uses about 275 kilowatt hours per year, which produces an estimated 253 pounds of GHGs.

For more information

Please snd an e-mail to or call OWASA at 919-968-4421, visit or write to us at 400 Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro NC 27510 or send a fax to 919-968-4464.