Did you know that if your water meter isn’t working correctly, there’s a good chance you are getting bills based on estimated readings or your bill is showing zero usage? Once the issue is corrected, you’ll be billed for the water that you used.

When your water meter works the way it should, it sends the Water Department information showing the amount of water you used during your most recent billing cycle. The Water Revenue Bureau uses that reading to generate an accurate bill.

However, when the transmitter on your water meter isn’t working, you will be sent a bill based on your average water use—this is listed on your bill as an estimated reading. In some cases, customers will get a bill for stormwater fees and service charges, but not the amount of water being used each billing cycle. This is a zero-usage bill.

Typical reasons for a zero-usage bill include:

  • Meter equipment is damaged or defective
  • Metering equipment has been tampered with
  • You are away for an extended period, and no one is using water
  • The property is vacant

You can tell whether you have an actual reading, are getting estimated readings, or have zero usage by checking the usage history chart on your paper bill or logging into your MyPhillyWaterBill account.

A snipping of a Philadelphia Water Department bill shows the months of September and October as estimated readings. The bars are a light blue.

See a sample bill in the PWD Customer Guide. An estimated reading will show a light blue bar for that billing cycle. When you have a zero-use bill, there will be no bars on your usage chart.

If you have an estimated or zero reading, it’s important to call (215) 685-6300 and request a meter appointment immediately.

While we are currently scheduling required meter upgrades at every account in Philadelphia as part of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure initiative, customers with estimated readings or zero usage can skip the AMI scheduling process and get their meter upgraded now by PWD.

By calling (215) 685-6300 and scheduling a meter appointment with PWD, you will get actual readings on your bill and you will also get the perks of the upgraded meter, including leak alerts and the ability to check your usage in real-time online. There is no fee for upgrading your meter, and the process usually takes less than 30 minutes.

We reach out to customers after they have had an upgrade, and survey results indicate that customers are extremely satisfied with their meter upgrades: more than 95 percent of respondents say their overall experiences with the contractor and meter upgrade installations were excellent or good!

Please note: If your meter is currently working properly, you cannot schedule a meter upgrade by calling (215) 685-6300. We will reach out to you when meter upgrades are being scheduled in your neighborhood.

Adjusted Bills for Estimated and Zero Reads

Customers who were getting estimated readings or zero usage on their bills will be charged for water that was used during prior billing cycles but not reported. Customers may also receive a credit if their billed estimates were greater than the amount of water they actually used while they were receiving estimated readings.

In most cases, actual usage can be determined because the meter register continues to record actual usage even when the transmitter fails to send usage data. The meter can be read when the meter is upgraded to provide actual usage over time. If the meter is damaged and can no longer register water usage, the customer will be back billed for the number of months the zero usage occurred times the average monthly usage for the size of the meter.

Customers who had zero or estimated reading bills will have their bills corrected after a meter upgrade. Once your meter is upgraded, you will get a notification if your meter is showing zero or estimated use.

Customers with a large catch-up balance resulting from past estimated or zero use readings who are concerned about paying a corrected bill should establish a payment agreement or apply for assistance to avoid penalties and enforcement.

Dispute a Water Bill

If you feel there’s a problem with your water bill—whether it’s the amount due, the payment terms, a water shutoff notice, or another issue—you have the right to dispute it. Follow these steps to dispute a water bill.

Call (215) 685-6300 or learn about water bill assistance options in Philadelphia.