Unusually high bill? You might have a leak.

Blog Post
Graphic showing responsibility of water pipes. Repairing broken pipes on the customer’s side of the meter is the property owner’s responsibility.
Leaks are a leading cause of unexpectedly high water bills. If you find a leak, you can request an adjustment (or credit) to your sewer, stormwater, and water bill so you don’t have to pay for the increased water use.
In this article

The importance of fixing a leak goes beyond the bill. Unaddressed leaks can result in serious property damage, including lasting damage to the foundation of your home or neighboring buildings. An unattended leak can result in water-saturated ground that can lead to up-rooted trees or cause small landslides if your property is on a slope or hillside. You could be held responsible for these types of problems and related expenses can add up fast.

There are many reasons to act fast when you get a high bill. Here are some tips to help identify a leak and how the Water Bureau can help. 

Responsibility for fixing burst pipes

Illustration showing that the City is responsible for water infrastructure up to and including the water meter. After water passes the meter, water infrastructure is the responsibility of the customer.
Repairing broken pipes on the customer’s side of the meter is the property owner’s responsibility

The Portland Water Bureau owns and maintains all the pipes up to and including the water meter. Repairing broken pipes on the customer’s side of the meter is the property owner’s responsibility.

Repairing broken pipes on the customer’s side of the meter is the property owner’s responsibility. Learn more about how you can check for a leak on your property.

To report damage to pipes owned by the Portland Water Bureau, contact our 24-hour Emergency Line by calling 503-823-4874, option 1.

How to get your bill adjusted after a water leak  

Water leaks can use hundreds or thousands of gallons of water. If you don’t request a bill adjustment from us, you will be charged at the normal water rate for the water used due to a leak.

Things to know:

  • We can’t adjust an account until we have read the meter and recorded the increased usage on a bill. Most single-family residential customers have their meters read once every three months. After you receive your bill showing the increased usage, you must repair the leak and apply for a leak adjustment within 90 days.
  • To extend the due date on your higher bill, you can request a payment arrangement. Setting up a payment arrangement and paying it on time will keep you from getting late fees or having your water shut off for nonpayment.
  • Bills can only be adjusted due to water leaks. If you left faucets running to protect your pipes during the cold weather, that increased use is not eligible for a leak adjustment. Water use from letting faucets drip would not significantly impact your bill.

To get your bill adjusted:

  1. Find and fix your leak. Bill adjustments can be granted only after leaks have been repaired.
  2. Contact our Customer Service team by phone at 503-823-7770 or email at PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov to submit your request. Be prepared to share:
  • Today’s date
  • Customer name
  • Account number
  • Customer address, including city, state, and ZIP 
  • Home phone
  • Work phone
  • Date leak was discovered 
  • Date leak was repaired
  • Description of the leak (faucet, toilet, underground, etc.)
  • Explanation of how the leak was repaired

Find more information about leak adjustments, also available in EspañolРусскийTiếng Việt简体中文.

Request an adjustment on your bill to avoid higher sewer charges all year.

Your winter water use impacts your sewer charges all year. To determine water use, we measure how much water flows through your water meter. Single-family homes don’t have a sewer meter that measures the amount of sewage each home sends into the sewer system. Instead, we base your sewer charge on how much water you use during the winter months. Learn more about how your winter water use affects your sewer charges in our winter newsletter.

A leak during the winter could increase your year-round sewer charges. If you qualify for a leak adjustment, your sewer charges will also be considered for a credit. If you do not qualify for a leak adjustment, we can still review your account and potentially lower your sewer charges on future bills.

How the Water Bureau is investing in customer service improvements 

We’re committed to providing reliable, compassionate service and support to all our customers, especially in challenging situations. Our ongoing investments in technology and infrastructure reflect our dedication to improving customer experiences and the resilience of our services and systems.

Two Portland Water employees review water meters in the meter shop
  • While we don’t have robust real-time data on the impacts of January’s winter storm, our work to install advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) will change that in the future. The Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services are investing in AMI—smart meters—that will be able to give us real time information about water use throughout the system.
  • Additionally, we’re developing a new customer portal that will improve our communication with customers, allowing us to proactively alert customers to problems—like leaks from a broken pipe—at their property.  These significant changes will ensure faster resolution and better service for customers.
  • Installation is planned to begin between 2026 and 2030. Once it’s up and running, we will have real-time information about leaks and other service disruptions.

How else can I get help?