Frequently Asked Questions

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

A. Water and wastewater (sewer) 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. We are happy to announce that effective July 1, 2019, there was no increase in water or sewer consumption rates for the first time in several years. There was a slight increase in the Readiness-to-Serve charge (base charge) with the average customer paying $1.02 more per month. All meters have this fee regardless of usage, and it varies by size of meter. Irrigation charges were also set at a uniform rate.

Water and sewer rates are based on volume and cover the majority of the cost of water and wastewater treatment, water distribution and wastewater collection. Tax revenue is not used to fund our services. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission approves rate changes as part of the Utilities Department budget, which is also submitted to the City of Winston-Salem budget and approved by the City Council. For more information on increased water consumption, please visit Unusually High Bills.

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 wastewater 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 are covered, as well as the expenses for providing adequate flow and pressure to those meters. 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. A pink or black film on fixtures may be caused by an airborne fungus called Aspergillus sp. that is commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens. The fungus reproduces by spreading spores via air that land on moist surfaces, which are ideal conditions for its growth. A cleaning solution of one part bleach to five parts water, or commercial products containing bleach are effective to kill the fungus and remove most stains.

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

A. Earthy and musty odors are usually caused by algae in our raw water that produce two compounds: Geosmin, which causes earthy tastes and odors, and 2-methylisoborneol (commonly referred to as MIB), which causes musty odors. The algae that produce these compounds are normally present in the summer when conditions are warm and better-suited for algal growth. These compounds are very difficult to remove during the purification process and while some people find the taste unpleasant, they are not harmful when consumed. Our treatment process utilizes powered activated carbon (PAC) and we actively manage our raw water sources to minimize algal growth.

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 CityLink 311 or 336-727-8000.

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