July 17 2019

DPW: Excess Water Use Notices Point to Leaks and Ignoring them Could Cost You

By: Thaddeus Stephanak

The Town of Burlington Department of Public Works is trying to save you money and water. 

In 2010 the DPW replaced the water meters for most residences and businesses with smart meters connected to radio transmitters that deliver water use information to the DPW. When 24 hours of continuous water is detected the account it is flagged in the DPW system and the resident or business is notified. Some businesses account for their 24 hour water use but it is not typical for a residence. 

Burlington residents are notified by letters from the DPW, with a graph showing the usage. The graph is not the measure of how water is being billed but shows excessive use which can mean the house may have a leak in their plumbing or toilet. A leak means the water meter is registering continuous use through the system, not necessarily a leak you can hear or see with water on the floor. 

In his office, DPW Director John Sanchez pointed to his computer with the water use software displayed. 

“This is a pattern of water use, and obviously when you see a pattern where water is being used every hour of the day it is very likely that you don’t want to do that,” Sanchez pointed out.

Some people, once receiving the notification letters, fix the problem and contact the DPW to check if the leak is remedied. It takes about 48 hours for the DPW software to receive usage results.  

“Nine out of ten times it’s the toilet,” Sanchez noted. “The flapper is not right or the overflow. Either way water is going through it. People don’t notice that.”  

The DPW does give out dye tablets to put in your toilet tank. If after a few minutes without flushing, your bowl turns that color you know that water is leaking into the bowl. 

The DPW finds most residents ignore the letters all together. DPW Administrative Assistant Teresa Keene goes through the flagged reports and sends the letters, about 20 a month. Keene said the number of people that do respond is minimal.

”Roughly two or three a year,” according to Keene.

Letters are sent if the continuous flow happens for 30 days or more. Once an account is flagged the residence is put on the list to receive a letter the next month. The reason for the delay in response is due to the many reasons water can be going through the meter. 

“We wait to see a pattern with a certain amount of water going through it,” Sanchez explained.

Sanchez compared Burlington’s water service to other utilities.

“Does the electric company call you when you leave the lights on?” he asked. “We don’t want to waste the water, and we don’t want people to waste their own water.”

Reading letters from the Town of Burlington Dept. of Public Works can possibly save you money and helps with water conservation.



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