The Iowa City Water Division has options for customers interested in saving money on their utility bills this summer. A separate water meter system or portable meter kit may help residents with increased summer water usage reduce their sewer fees.

Customers with swimming pools or large lawns or gardens use a higher volume of water in the summer than in other seasons, resulting in higher utility bills. Increased water usage also impacts sewer fees, as charges are based on the volume of water drawn through a water account. Even though the water used for lawns or gardens soaks into the ground and never enters the wastewater system, residents are charged for discharge into the sewer.

These sewer charges may be avoided with the installation of a separate water meter. The City currently offers two options: a permanently installed single-purpose meter, also known as an irrigation meter, or a portable water meter kit. Contact customer service at 319-356-5160 for details.

If large amounts of water are used to water lawns or gardens, the single purpose meter may be the better option. Customers who need extra water for a short period of time, such as for watering a new lawn or trees or filling a pool, may prefer the portable water meter kit, which may be rented for up to 30 days for $35. The kit records the amount of water used, after which sewer charges are figured and then deducted from the next month’s utility bill.

The Water Division calculates that it would take approximately 6,750 gallons of water per month to justify the cost of renting a portable meter. (Based on $35 fee – $3.99 per 100 cu. ft. – would take approximately 900 cu. ft. or 6,750 gallons.) Most lawns or gardens need one to two inches of water per week, depending on climate and soil conditions. To determine how many gallons you’ll need, multiply the square footage of the lawn or space to be watered by .62 gallons (for one inch of water per square foot) or 1.24 gallons (for two inches per square foot). The answer will give you the number of gallons you’ll require for your watering projects each week. Multiply the number by four (weeks) for monthly usage, and if it exceeds 6,750 gallons, it’s most likely you would benefit from a second meter.

If a separate water meter is not feasible, the Water Division offers other suggestions to curb water usage during the summer:

  • Use a rain gauge to measure how much rain has been received. An inch or two each week is sufficient to keep your lawn and garden healthy
  • When you need to water, do so in the late evening after the sun has set, or during the early morning when the air is coolest. Watering in the morning or midday is often wasteful, as much of the water will evaporate before it can be absorbed.
  • The lawn will absorb water more effectively if it’s added all at once. Instead of watering for a short period every day, water less often but for a longer period of time. This allows the water to reach the deeper roots and will help sustain a healthy lawn.

To rent a portable kit, stop by the Iowa City Water Treatment Facility at 80 Stephen Atkins Drive between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Kits may be rented April 1 through Oct. 1 (weather permitting). Payment may be made by check or exact cash amount. Units that are not returned by the deadline, or that are returned damaged, will result in charges for the cost of replacing or repairing the meter.

Customers who wish to install a second permanent water meter are responsible for all expenses associated with its installation. For more information, contact the Water Division at 319-356-5160.

Portable meter signout form