Private water bills and submetering

Certain multi-family property owners may bill residents for water and sewer services

Under North Carolina law, and subject to approval by the NC Utilities Commission, multi-family property owners that meet certain requirements may bill residents for the cost of water and sewer service from OWASA.

How multi-family properties receive OWASA water and sewer services

Owners of multi-family developments typically bill residents for water and sewer charges in one of two ways:

 1.   Properties may receive service through one or a small number of "master" meters that serve the entire property. Property owners receive a bill from OWASA and the cost of water and sewer service is normally included in the residents' rent.

2.   In other properties, each residential unit may be served by an OWASA meter. In these cases, each unit's water use is measured and each resident receives a bill from OWASA.

Master-meter arrangements (number 1) are more common in Carrboro-Chapel Hill. 

Similarly, many commercial and office developments are served through master-meters instead of individual meters for each tenant/business.  

Private “submetering”

In accord with State law, and with approval of the NC Utilities Commission, owners of multi-family developments with master-meters may install private meters, or “submeters,” to measure water and sewer use and bill each residence for these services. This is an increasing trend in our community and others.

Please click here for a list of multi-family developments in our community that have installed submetering systems. (The list includes a “Docket Number” assigned by the NC Utilities Commission. By going to the Commission’s website at http://starw1.ncuc.net/NCUC/portal/ncuc/page/Dockets/portal.aspx, you can enter WR- and the Docket Number to get additional  information regarding the submetering and billing for a given multi-family development. When you enter WR- and the Docket Number, please be sure to uncheck the box for “Exclude Closed Dockets.”) 

NC Utilities Commission's review and approval of rates for private water and sewer bills

At submetered locations, the property owner/manager (or a company hired by the owner/manager) may privately bill the residents in each unit at rates approved by the NC Utilities Commission.

  • Under the Utilities Commission’s rules at http://www.ncuc.net/ncrules/Chapter18.pdf, the property owner can pass through the per unit share of OWASA’s fixed monthly charges plus charges based on the volume of water and sewer service used. An administrative fee of up to $3.75 per dwelling unit may be added to cover the costs of submeter reading, billing, and collection. 
  • In some multi-family developments, the private submeters measure only hot water use, and water/sewer volume charges are therefore allocated based on hot water use. 
  • OWASA has no authority over the rates set by the Utilities Commission.
  • The Utilities Commission's rules for water companies are available here.

Bill reduction/conservation choices if you receive bills based on your share of hot water use in a multi-family neighborhood

Water conservation and submetering

National studies have shown that submetering can effectively encourage water conservation. The National Multiple Family Submetering and Allocation Billing Program Study (to read the Executive Summary, please click here) reported that submetering achieved  savings of 15.3 percent (21.8 gallons/day/unit) compared to master-metered rental properties.

 To speak with someone concerning a complaint about your submetered arrangement

You may contact the Consumer Services Division of the Public Staff – NC Utilities Commission (919-733-9277 or Consumer.Services@psncuc.nc.gov).

For more information