- For residential customers, both your water and your sewer bill is based on the water meter readings. If you believe your bill is lower than it should be, contact Utility Customer Service at 515-239-5120. If you believe your bill is higher than it should be, check these areas, then contact Utility Customer Service.
Most high consumption problems are caused by leaks in a toilet. The Water Plant has toilet leak test dye tablets free to customers. Or, you can simply place blue food coloring in the upper tank of your toilet. Then wait approximately five minutes and see if the blue color shows up in the bowl. If it does, you have a leaking valve that should be replaced.
Do you have faucets that drip? Even a slow drip can waste 450 gallons of water in a month and should be repaired.
Flow restrictors can be installed in shower heads to reduce water consumption. Also, low-flow shower heads are easily accessible at home improvement stores and online.
Keep your heat on and up
- 55º F is the absolute lowest you should go and only then if you have people in the house to keep the air moving. Otherwise, it is not recommended to keep your heat below 62º F, especially if no one is home.
Use Heat Tape
- Apply heat tape according to the manufacturer's instructions on pipes that are near exterior or uninsulated walls.
- Insulate pipes using either pipe insulation or jacketing. Used in conjunction with heat tape, you will lessen the chance of your pipes freezing.
- Foam pipe insulation is less costly than jacketing. A six foot piece can be purchased at home improvement stores for under $2.
- Other common items you can use for insulating your pipes: pool noodles (slit down one side), thick blankets, fiberglass insulation (wrapped in plastic), reflective tape.
Open Cupboard and Closet Doors
- Open cupboard doors below sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms. If your indoor meter is in your basement, open the utility room door to let the heat in. If you have a modern space heater, turn it on and aim it at the pipes.
Leave A Trickle of Water
- For anyone who has had ongoing issues with pipes freezing, a well-tested tip is to let the indoor faucets trickle water to keep the water running through the pipes. A slow drip or trickle may cost a little more in water usage and bills, but it will save you from thousands of dollars in damages if your pipes freeze and burst causing your basement to flood and water damage throughout the home.
Before You Leave Town
- Set your heat at 62º F before you leave for the winter, even if it is not very cold when you leave. Iowa is well-known for ever-changing weather.
- If you are going to be gone for an extended amount of time and want to turn your heat off, contact our Water Meter Division to shut your water off at the meter or curb. This service is $70 per trip, but is well worth it to keep pipes from freezing and bursting while you are away. Call Water Meter at 515-239-5151 from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday - Friday.
- If you are a long-time Ames Utility customer, call Utility Customer Service before you leave town. You can let them know you will be gone and give them updated emergency contact information in case there is a utility emergency at your home. Customer service can be reached at 515-239-5120 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday - Friday.
If you wake up and your water is not working, take these steps to troubleshoot:
Is it just your water that isn't working?
Call your neighbors or call the City Water Plant anytime to see if there is a water main break or water shut down in your area:
City Water Plant 515-239-5150
Did your water get shut off?
Make sure it isn't a billing issue by checking with customer service during business hours:
Utility Customer Service 515-239-5120
Is it all the faucets and taps in your home?
If not, you may need to call a plumber.
Do you hear rushing water anywhere in your home where it shouldn't be?
Call a plumber ASAP!
Is it cold outside?
If, after troubleshooting, you don't have an answer for your water not working in your home, you may have frozen pipes.
Once your pipes are frozen, you need to wait them out. You can use some of the preventative measures below (such as opening cupboards/cabinets and applying blankets, insulation, and heat tape) to expedite the process and help keep your pipes from bursting and causing major damage to your home and bank account.
There might be the possibility that there is a main break and because of that, or because repair work involved main shutdown, homes may be without water until repairs are completed. The water distribution system is the responsibility of the Public Works Department. They strive to notify homeowners when a planned shutdown will occur; but when it comes to unexpected main breaks, there is often not time to notify nearby homeowners. Often conditions of the break, weather, and other factors determine when (or if) staff is able to give notification.
For apartment-dwellers, it's a good idea to first check with the owner or property manager. Often landlords or managers arrange for plumbing work to be done and fail to give notification. If, indeed, this is not an internal problem, call the Water Plant 515-239-5150 to report. Sometimes Water Meter staff will be doing a routine change-out on a meter or bank of meters at an apartment complex. this information does not always get relayed to each tenant. A quick call to the Water Meter Division 515-239-5151 will confirm whether or not city employees have shut off the water to do these routine changes.
During extremely cold weather, people often have no water because their meter is frozen. Staff from the Water Meter Division are called out to replace the broken meter.
Also during cold weather, individuals living in mobile homes can experience the problem of no water. Usually, this means the lines in the mobile home are frozen. Mobile homeowners may want to contact their court manager.
Also, check to make sure the shut-off valve which is located near the water meter in completely turned on. Sometimes children or even adults will unknowingly close the shutoff valve.
Anytime you are without water and don't know why, please contact the Water Plant (515-239-5150), Public Works (515-239-5550), or Customer Service (515-239-5120). Be ready to answer the following questions.
- When did you first experience this problem?
- Do you live in a mobile home? If so, the responsibility for problems within the park are the responsibility of the owner or manager. You will need to contact them directly.
- Do you live in an apartment? If so, you should contact the manager to learn if they are doing any plumbing work within the building.
- Are you aware if any of your neighbors have the same problem?
- Is it cold out? If so, you may have frozen pipes.
- The City is responsible for leaks in the distribution system. Customers are responsible for any problems beginning at the corporation stop (where your service line connects to the water main). If you suspect a water main is broken in the distribution system, contact the Water Plant at 515-239-5150. Please provide as exact of a location as possible. To report a leaking water meter inside your home, call the Water Meter Division at 515-239-5151. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to repair water leaks coming from the shutoff valve near the water meter.
Individuals who are experiencing a strong septic or sewer gas odor should air out their house by opening windows and/or doors where possible.
It's likely that the trap in the basement floor drain has become dry and has allowed sewer gas odor to escape into the home. Pouring a bucket of water down the basement floor drain can cure the problem quickly. Some older basements may even have more than one floor drain.
Also, during the winter, the opening to the vent stack can form ice and cause a backup of sewer gas odor into the home. Even at other times of the year, the vent stack can become plugged by debris or nests.
If you notice an unexplained septic odor, contact the Public Works Utility Maintenance Division at 515-239-5550, with the following information.
- When did you first notice the problem (time of day)?
- Is the problem with both the hot and cold water?
- Where is the odor most noticeable?
- Do you have floor drains in the area? If so, the drain traps could be dry. Try pouring a bucket of water down the drain to find out if the odor dissipates.
- Is your vent pipe frozen? The vent pipe normally carries any septic odors out of the house. If the pipe is frozen shut, the odors can be forced into the house. Also, insects and small birds can build nests inside vent pipes that ultimately restrict the opening.
- Have you installed a new water heater recently (within past year)?
- Has any plumbing work been done in the home recently?
- Do you have an in-home water filter system?
After hours, weekends, and holidays, you may call the Water Plant to report 515-239-5150.
Rusty water is safe to drink but is objectionable because it discolors laundry and affects the flavor of some beverages (such as tea and coffee). Usually, problems with rusty water are caused by some sort of disturbance in the distribution system. If you experience rusty water, try to avoid using any water, thus limiting the amount of rust you pull into your plumbing system. Postpone doing laundry until after the problem clears up. If you have already done laundry and it is stained, do not dry it. The Water Plant has available a product that may remove the stains. When you experience rusty water, you may call the Water Plant at 515-239-5150 or Public Works at 515-239-5550 if there is no known cause. Have the following information ready when you call.
- When did you first notice the problem (time of day)?
- Is the problem with both the hot and cold water?
- Are you aware if any of your neighbors are experiencing the same problem?
- Are you aware of any construction work occurring in your area?
The Water Pollution Control Plant (56797-280th) south of Ames will accept travel trailer waste water at the facility. Individuals should notify the plant staff 515-232-7423 about when would be a good time during the day to dump the waste water.
It should be noted that getting to the plant can be somewhat challenging and includes driving about a mile and a half on gravel. There is a dump station at the Story City rest area north of Ames on Interstate 35 that my be more easily accessible.
Low water pressure can be caused by several things. If water pressure is consistently low, water utility customers may call the Water Meter Division 515-239-5151 and report the problem. At no charge, Water Meter staff can take a water pressure measurement at the home or business to determine what sort of pressure is available where the water comes into the building. If the pressure is adequate at that location but remains low inside, it's possible there is an internal problem.
It's not unusual for very old homes to have build-up inside the plumbing, causing low water pressure. Solutions may include some re-plumbing and upgrading fixtures.
If there is low pressure, say, just in the kitchen, check the faucet by unscrewing the aerator. It may be clogged with fine particles. Usually, a quick rinse of the screen will solve the problem.
These types of issues may also be reported to the Water Plant 515-239-5150. There is someone on duty 24 hours a day.
Try to have the following information ready when you call.
- How long have you experienced this problem?
- Have you had any plumbing work done in the home recently? (If you have and the problem is isolated to a single faucet, check the aerator for debris.)
- Are you aware of any construction work in your area or neighborhood?
Possible water main breaks can be reported to the Public Works Operations Division 515-239-5550. After regular business hours, weekends, or holidays, the public may call the Water Plant 515-239-5150 to report possible main breaks.
- Water utility customers in Ames may call the Water Plant 515-239-5150 with any water quality questions or concerns. A staff member is available to help answer questions 24 hours a day, every day, including holidays and weekends.
- The City's water distribution system is made up of two distinct pressure zones. The east pressure zone has two water towers (also known as elevated tanks), and they are named according to their location. The first is the Bloomington Road Elevated Tank (BRET), and the second is the State Avenue and Mortensen Road tower (SAM). The west pressure zone has one water tower located near the future intersection of Mortensen Road and County Line Road (MAC). The water tower near North Dakota Avenue has been permanently taken out of service.
Typically, water towers within a given pressure zone are spaced apart from each other in a city. That is the case with BRET and SAM, which are three and a half miles apart. However, since MAC is in a separate pressure zone, it's location is less dependent on the other towers. This is why MAC can be located relatively close to SAM (approximately two miles) yet serve its intended function, which is to provide an adequate supply of water to the west pressure zone.