Frequently Asked Questions

Billing and Accounts

How can I pay my bill?

You can pay your water bill online, by phone, by mail, or in person, using a bank account, credit card (processing fees apply), check, eCheck, or cash (only in person at the Municipal Services Building).

Get all the details on the City’s Pay a water bill page.

I just purchased a property, how do I get the name changed on the account?

New property owners should take the following steps to receive water service:

  • Once your deed is recorded, your account will be updated and you will begin to receive bills in your name. This should take place within approximately 30 days. If it’s been longer than 30 days, or the buyer would like to make sure WRB receives the updated information, they can fax the top copy of the Settlement statement to WRB at (215) 686-0199 or (215) 686-6852.
  • If your deed is not recorded, and it is essential that you receive the bill in your name, present your settlement sheet to the Water Revenue Bureau.
  • If there is no meter on the property, a meter must be installed within 30 days after the settlement date.
  • Property owners who rent out their property need to meet specific licensing and permitting as required by the Department of Licenses & Inspections

Become a water customer →

I’m a new tenant. How do I get the water turned on in my name?

The water should be on when the tenant moves in. PWD does not turn water on and off between customers. If the water is not on, the tenant should first speak to the owner about having the water turned on. If the water is on, the tenant will have to come to the office to establish tenancy. The owner of the property must be up to date on their Business Privilege Tax or the application for tenancy will be denied. More information can be found at the Water Revenue Bureau web site.

If you are a tenant, you may apply for water service in your name by bringing the following documents to a Customer Service location:

  • Consent from the owner for you to have service in your name.
  • A viable street address for the owner. PO Boxes are not accepted.
  • Two (2) official pieces of personal identification. One must be a current government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license.
  • Proof of residency, such as a lease, rent book or canceled check.
  • Current utility bills in your name listing the street address for the property.
  • A water meter reading. If there is no meter on the property, a meter must be installed before the application is approved.

If you are an occupant (a potential owner of the property or a person who has permission to live in the property without a lease), you may take the following steps to receive water service:

  • Bring two (2) official pieces of personal identification. One must be a current government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license.
  • Complete an application at a Customer Service location near you
  • Obtain a current reading of your meter
  • Present evidence of occupancy or potential ownership. Evidence includes:
    • Death Certificate of Owner
    • Current utility bills in your name and for this property
    • Lease Purchase Agreements
    • Letter of Authorization to occupy property
    • Other legal documentation

Become a water customer →

Drinking Water Quality

Who controls my water’s quality?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets national drinking water standards to protect public health. These standards are enforced in our state by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. On a monthly or annual basis, we submit water quality test results to the state to prove that we are providing water that meets all of the standards. If there were ever a serious water quality problem, the state would immediately be notified and would oversee our response and corrective actions.

However, only a portion of what we do in testing water quality is driven by these federal or state requirements. We also perform tests not prescribed by federal and state laws. We test for the acceptability of the water’s quality, not just for its potential to meet the standards. We conduct research to better understand the characteristics of the water from the rivers to the tap, and to find better ways to treat and deliver water to our customers. In order to do all of this, we have set our own goals for water quality – goals that are more stringent than the federal or state standards. We continue reviewing these goals as new information comes in from around the world, and as better technology and science are developed, so that we can continue to provide the best tap water at the least cost.

Is our water safe to drink?

Yes, absolutely. Our drinking water not only meets all federal and state regulations for clean and safe drinking water, but surpasses even those requirements. Philadelphia was one of the original participants in the Partnership for Safe Water, a voluntary, nationwide program ensuring the highest standards for water treatment plant performance. Through our partnership efforts, advanced research, and award-winning Source Water Assessment Program, we stay at the forefront of our field. Our primary goal is to ensure safe, clean drinking water for our customers.

Learn more on our Drinking Water Quality page →

What are the main characteristics of my tap water?


Chlorine in the form of chloramine (chlorine combined with ammonia) is added, first to disinfect the water and then to make sure that the water stays free of germs or harmful bacteria all the way to your tap. Chlorine levels in water vary from about 0.2 parts-per-million to 2 ppm depending on where you live relative to the water treatment plant, as well as the time of the year (chlorine is harder to keep in the water during the summer, when the temperature of the water is high).


Philadelphia’s water is moderately hard because the rivers from which we get the water contain calcium. We increase the hardness slightly as we add lime to adjust the acidity, or pH level of the water. Both calcium and lime are natural minerals.


The acidity of Philadelphia’s water is controlled at the treatment plant using lime to make sure that treatment works properly and to make sure that the water coming out of your tap is consistent and low in corrosiveness. The natural water’s pH can change. The treatment plants control these changes so that we can supply water that is neutral in pH.

Corrosion inhibitor

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of State require us to control the corrosiveness of our water to prevent lead and copper from leaching out of the plumbing materials into the water. We add parts-per-billion levels of a corrosion inhibitor, a phosphate, to the city’s water to reduce the corrosion of the pipes.


Fluoride is added to the water at 0.7 mg/L concentration for the prevention of tooth decay. This is done under the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s guidance. Some fluoride is natural in the water, but we boost it up a little more to keep it consistent and beneficial.

Learn more on our Drinking Water Quality page →

Does PWD monitor for Chromium-6?

Chromium-6 is not regulated by the EPA or PADEP. In 2014, PWD performed special monitoring as part of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, a nationwide monitoring effort conducted by EPA. Unregulated contaminants are those that do not yet have a drinking water standard set by the EPA. The purpose of monitoring for these contaminants is to help EPA decide whether the contaminants should have a standard. PWD’s results averaged 0.34 parts per billion, with a range of 0.30-0.42 parts per billion. The standard set by California is 10 parts per billion. Thus, PWD’s results are substantially lower. PWD continues to follow the EPA’s ruling on this to ensure that we provide the highest quality water to our customers.

Learn more on our Drinking Water Quality page →

Home Plumbing

What, as a homeowner, am I responsible for?

Residential customers are responsible from their connection at the main (ferrule) to the premises for both the sewer line and their service and supply line.

You can find detailed information on our Customer Responsibilities page.

Does PWD offer some kind of insurance for my plumbing?

PWD does not offer any type of insurance or parts and labor plan for the outside plumbing, nor are we affiliated with Home Line Services or any other company that may advertise insurance for plumbing and sewers.

What can I do to prevent frozen pipes, and what do I do if my pipes freeze?

Remember, the pipes inside your home are your responsibility. When your pipes freeze, the Philadelphia Water Department is not able to help. Protecting your pipes and water meter from cold weather is well worth the effort and will keep your water flowing.

  • Wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas, such as underneath a shed or kitchen floor.
  • Let water run overnight at a trickle in extremely cold weather to keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Have your vacant property winterized by a registered plumber
  • Keep water meter above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Replace or cover cracked or broken windows.
  • Caulk windows near water meters or pipes and cover windows with plastic.

If your pipes freeze:

  • Do not apply direct heat to the pipes. If your pipes freeze, you should heat the pipes and the area around your meter with a space heater or hair dryer.
  • You may also engage the services of a licensed and registered plumber.

For more information, visit All About Frozen Pipes.


How is my meter read?

The City uses Automatic Meter Reading (AMR). AMR uses radio waves, which allows a City representative to read your meter without entering your home. AMR readings happen once a month.

How do I get a water meter installed?

If you do not have a water meter, call (215) 685-6300 to get a water meter installed in your property. It is your responsibility to allow the City representative into your home to install your new meter. Until your new meter is installed, the Water Revenue Bureau will send you an estimated bill based on the amount of water used in the past and the estimated size of your meter.

My water meter is broken, who do I call?

If your water meter breaks, call (215) 685-6300 to have it repaired or replaced.


What is stormwater?

Stormwater is water from rain, or from melting ice and snow, that runs over land and hard surfaces and ends up in our sewers.

Learn more →

Why am I being billed for stormwater?

Stormwater needs to be managed or, due to increasing storm volumes, it can result in combined sewer overflows into our streams and basement flooding problems. Stormwater runoff volume and quality have been identified as the number one pollution source to rivers and streams. There are also increasing federal and state regulations that mandate the proper management of stormwater. All of these factors lead to increases in stormwater management costs.

Learn more about stormwater management or the stormwater charge on your monthly bill.

Taste and Odor

My water has a color to it, what should I do?

If your water has a brownish or rusty color, the color is a result of the presence of iron or rust. Most of the pipes in Philadelphia used to deliver water to your home are made of iron. Older mains can impart rust to the water. Newer mains are lined with cement to lessen the contact between the water and the iron mains. However, when there is an upset in the system, such as a water main break, or when a valve is operated or the water flow is changed, rust may be stirred up. When this happens, the water is unpleasant to look at and taste, but it is not harmful.

A rust problem is usually short-lived, and should be gone in a day or less once it is flushed from our water distribution system or your home plumbing. Do not wash clothes when water appears rusty because the rust will stain the fabric. Flush your cold and hot water, once the discoloration is gone, to make sure the rust does not accumulate or stay in your plumbing.

What is that musty or earthy taste in my water?

Earthy and musty off-flavors in water occur worldwide, and, aside from the chlorine flavor of tap water, are the most common flavors noticed by our customers. They come from nature and have no known health effects at their natural levels.

Earthy and musty odors can be found in natural waters and in soils, as well as in beets and in corn (because they are grown in contact with soil). In waterways, when certain algae grow in abundance in an algae bloom, high levels of these odors can be produced. Certain types of soil bacteria that also grow in water produce these chemicals, but they are less common in our waters.

The treatment needed to remove earthy and musty natural flavors can cost thousands of dollars a day. The most common treatment is to add carbon to the water as it is being treated, to absorb or soak up the flavors. However, these problems usually come and go, lasting for a few days to a few weeks.

The level of these flavors in water can be as low as 5 nanograms per liter (that is 5 parts-per-trillion, 5 seconds in 320 centuries, or 5 pinches of salt in 10,000 tons of potato chips). Yet, highly sensitive people can still taste them. Sensitivity varies greatly among people. Many people are unable to detect one or the other flavor at their natural levels, while some people can detect both equally well.

Why does my water appear milky?

If you have ever shaken up a warm bottle of soda, you know that all of the carbonation or carbon dioxide gas added in the production process wants to come out. If you open the top, the fluid will fizz up and over as the gas escapes to the air.

The same is true for tap water. When cold, such as during the winter, water is rich in oxygen. When it enters our homes, the water warms up and the oxygen wants to escape. You turn on the tap and, like shaking up that bottle of warm soda, the air fizzes up. As the glass of water sits, you will see the water clear from the bottom of the glass upward, as the air bubbles rise and escape to the air. All of these tiny air bubbles give the glass of water a milky appearance under natural or household lighting.

The air bubbles are not harmful and will quickly dissipate.

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