By April 12, 2013April 13th, 2021Reference
from Multifamily NW website

from Multifamily NW website

I recently contributed an article for Multifamily NW's newsletter focusing on how to decrease the (incredibly) rising water and sewer costs- there is hope!  Here is the article, it can also be viewed on Multifamily NW website:


By Bernard Gehret, Joseph Bernard Investment Real Estate

Rising water and sewer

costs are driving landlords crazy!  How do you stop the insanity?  Owners, landlords and property managers (even tenants) are affected, and other than voting it seems like there are very little options to reduce drastically rising water and sewer costs.  However, there is hope on the horizon!  By investing some time, owners potentially have a number of options on reducing the utility costs.  Consequently, avoiding waste is the first place to start.

#1:  Call the water bureau for a water/sewer audit.  The Portland water bureau’s phone number is: 503-823-7770, and they will review your past bills to determine if there appears to be an irregular spike in water/sewer usage.  They

can analyze for potential leaks, and if there is a leak and the owner repairs the leak the water bureau may be able to “rebate” for past months expenses.

A quick note on “typical” usage: workers at the bureau have indicated in the past that most apartment tenants use about 2.5-3 CCF’s a month (The City of Portland measures water consumption in CCFs or hundred cubic feet).  Currently in Multnomah County, each CCF is approximately $11.40 for water and sewer.  For example, if you have 20 tenants in your building, “typical” usage would be around 50-60 CCF’s per month.  If you are substantially higher than that ratio, you may have wasted water usage.

#2:  Check the toilets!  Many toilets are old and are “silent assassins” in regards to waste.  A leaky toilet on a 10 unit building was found to produce about $200 a month in wasted expense!  Here are typical leak amounts for toilets according to the water bureau:

-10-15 gallons per day =  typical

and not usually noticed

-15-100 gallons per day = fairly common but still little or no noise from toilet

-100-1000 gallons per day =  occurs on a “regular basis” with noise from toilet

-1000-4000 gallons per day =  rare

Each CCF is 748 gallons, so if a toilet is leaking under the radar at 50 gallons per day, that equates to 1,500 gallons per month (or 2 CCF’s) resulting in about $23 in wasted costs.  While the $23 may not seem like much, it adds up to thousands with a 20 unit apartment building!

#3:  Use the dye test to check for toilet leaks.  You can test easily by placing food coloring in the tank and checking the bowl 20 minutes later.  If the dye leaks into the bowl there is a leak.

#4:  Install a bladder in the tank.  Adding a larger bladder prevents the water from filling up more in the tank and therefore less water is used.  You can purchase these for a few dollars on, and typically reduces water usage from 3.6 gallons to 1.6 gallons.

#5:  Utilize a billback company that will install meters.  Watersystems Inc. is a company that will install water meters on the hot water heater, and bill the tenant for their usage.  The company allows for purchase or rental (for a few dollars a month) of the equipment and is becoming a more popular option for owners as they also bill the tenants directly.  Check them out on youtube.

#6:  Install water constrictors on kitchen and bath sinks.  Energy trust will install constrictors which keeps the pressure the same but allows for less water flow (resulting in 1 gallon per minute vs. 2.2 gallons per minute).  The best part?  It’s free!

#7:  Utilize new $50 new toilet rebate program.  The Portland water bureau has recently opened up their rebate program to allow up to 20 toilets per owner for $50 per toilet.  Forms are on their website, and owners are required to purchase an energy efficient toilet and to recycle the old toilet.

Good luck reducing your expenses, it not only saves money but is the “right thing to do” for the environment.  Remember that saving money is the same as earning money, and it can increase cash flow and dramatically increase the value of your buildings!

About the author:  Bernard Gehret is co-founder and Principal Broker for Joseph Bernard Investment Real Estate in Portland, Oregon.  He has brokered over $200 million in apartment transactions the past 14 years, and is an award winning broker who LOVES assisting his clients and providing value to everyone he meets.  If you have any apartment related questions, feel free to contact him at 503-546-9390 or

Bernard Gehret

Bernard Gehret

Joseph Bernard Investment Real Estate