Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is my water bill higher than last year at this time? 

A. Water and wastewater costs are determined by the prevailing rate per 1,000 cubic feet of water used during each billing period. Rate adjustments are based on a detailed cost-of-service analysis to ensure that each utility customer pays a proportionate share of the cost to provide services. Effective July 1, 2018, water rates increased 3.5 percent and there was a 5 percent increase in sewer rates. All meters have a monthly fee that is charged regardless of usage, which varies by size of meter.

Water and sewer rates are based on volume and cover the majority of the cost of water and sewer treatment, water distribution and sewer collection. The City/County Utility Commission approves rate changes as part of the Utilities Department's budget, which is also submitted to the City of Winston-Salem budget and approved by the City Council.

Q. What is the Readiness to Serve Charge and why does the charge depend on the size of my water meter?

A. The Readiness to Serve Charge, formerly known as the Base Charge, is a fee implemented to cover a portion of the fixed costs associated with meter reading, billing services, and providing the availability to serve customers with service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This component of the bill includes fixed operating, maintenance and capital costs for both the water and the sewer systems that the utility bears in order to ensure the availability of clean and safe service to all customers, whether they use the service or not. The Readiness to Serve Charge is set based on the meter size so that operational costs associated with replacing, reading, and rebuilding the meter, as well as providing adequate flow and pressure to those meters, are covered. The factors that apply to how the Readiness to Serve Charge is set are established by the American Water and Wastewater Association.

Q. Where is my water meter located?

A. Water meters are generally located in the front yard of the residence to allow access by Utilities Department employees.

Q. Why was I charged a Service Initiation Fee?

A. A non-refundable service initiation fee of $20 is charged to all customers requesting water and wastewater service and appears on the first bill. This fee covers the costs associated with account setup, service activation in the field, and applies to all accounts that are activated on a yearly basis, such as irrigation meters.

Q. I have a question about underground utilities. How do a make this request?

A. Please call CityLink 311 or 336-727-8000.

Q. What is in our tap water that causes a pink film?

A. An airborne fungus, called aspergillus, can sometimes cause a "blush" on your kitchen and bathroom fixtures. The fungus is commonly found in household environments. Aspergillus thrives in moist areas such as bathrooms. Chlorine bleach, or cleaning products that contain bleach, are effective at getting rid of the fungus.

Q. What causes the "earthy taste" that sometimes affects our water?

A. This occasionally occurs in the winter when tap water tastes "not so fresh." Organic materials from lakes and rivers are making the water smell and taste musty. The compounds, geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), aren't easily removed during the purification process. The water is safe to drink even if the water doesn't taste the way it usually does. The unappealing taste is more common in the summer, when heat increases algal bloom in Salem Lake, which along with the Yadkin River, supply our raw water. When the compounds from the algae affect the taste, engineers reduce the amount of water coming from Salem Lake into the treatment plants, and increase the amount of river water. Powdered activated carbon (similar to what is in home water filtration devices) is also being used as needed and in addition to chlorine to treat the water.

Q. How do I request that my water to be tested? 

A. Please call CityLink 311 or 336-727-8000.

Q. How do I report what appears to be a sewage-related odor?

A. Occasionally, you may become aware of what appears to be sewage-related odor in your neighborhood. While most often these odors are the result of shifts in weather patterns, an odor can also signal a ruptured or clogged line. To report an odor, please call 336-765-0134.

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