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Department of Public Works

Frequently Asked Questions about Burlington Water

How does a tenant's name get added to the Water bill?

Excellent question! Burlington City Ordinances (section 31-19) do allow an owner to add a tenant’s name to their bill but we hold the property owner responsible for any unpaid balances. The property owner's name will always remain on the bill with the tenant being added as a care of. This is because our claim to unpaid balances is secured by filing a tax lien on the actual real estate supplied with water (City Ordinance, section 31-20 a). Eligible accounts have individual water meters for the space being rented and receive a separate bill from us. For example, if a duplex is separately rented but only has one water meter then we do not allow a tenant’s name to be added. This is because that water meter is tracking the cumulative usage for both units and must stay in the property owner’s name.  However, if a duplex is separately meter then we are happy to allow tenants to receive the bill provided the appropriate form is filled out. 

The tenant agreement form must be filled out completely and signed by the property owner or their designee. We will reject any documents that do not comply.  Please review the form carefully as it contains vital information regarding this process. Again, tenants cannot fill out this form—only proper authorization will be accepted.  Property owners may authorize their property managers to do business for them by completing our property manager form.

Unfortunately, we do not currently offer a final reading service for tenants so when a lease ends we will only be able to calculate final consumption through our regular reading dates.  We read the first three business days of the month and many lease terminations do coincide with our regular read dates.  However, property owners or tenants are welcome to read the water meter themselves and call us with the information so we can calculate the final bill based on that information.  We strongly encourage property owners to check with us about any unpaid balances before giving back a security deposit as we do not pursue tenants for the balance.     


I'm selling or buying a house, help!

Congratulations!  Burlington is a great city and if you have plans to sell or purchase then there a few things necessary to ensure a smooth transition of service.  It is very common for the Water Resources bill to be included in the items paid at closing but we need to know when that will occur.  The Final Reading Request Form must be completed by the seller or their representative and returned to us for scheduling.  There is a $30.00 fee for this service and it will be added to the final bill.  Unfortunately, if we don’t receive this form then there will be no final bill issued and this can result in confusion over whom owes what through the sale date.  A change in ownership does not absolve the balance and the new owner would inherit any unpaid balances.  We do not require a deposit nor do we report to credit agencies but a delinquent Water Resources bill can result in service termination or a lien being placed on the property.  Please note, we ask that the final balance is only paid once to avoid a lengthy refund process.  If you are unsure then please contact us to inquire or review the itemized list of expenses on the closing documents.  The final reading request form is available in alternate formats, please email if you require a non fillable form or have questions. 


Why is my bill higher than usual?

The first thing to do is conduct an internal audit to discover if any plumbing fixtures are leaking. The most common culprit of excessive water usage is a running toilet, although you should examine all fixtures including outside spigots. The water meter is typically located in your basement along the wall that is closest to the roadway.  They are temperature sensitive and will break when exposed to freezing temperatures, so if you do not have a basement then look in another protected area, like a utility closet.  There is a “leak indicator” on the face of the meter and this is a small red triangle (or diamond) that spins when the meter is recording usage.  Please take a moment when no one in the household is using water and watch the indicator.  If it is moving at all then your meter is recording consumption and water is moving through your home somewhere. 

If you did not find evidence of a leak then please reflect back on any recent events or changes in your household.  Did the number of residents change? Has there been a significant increase in laundry? Did you power wash your home? Are you an avid gardener?  Please review the number of days in the billing cycle on this bill--is it longer than usual? Was there a holiday during that period of time? Did you have a party or overnight guests? Any of these reasons could explain the high consumption and there may not be a reason for concern. We do offer free appointments to review the water meter with you. Please contact our Customer Service Team at (802)863-4501 or via email if you are interested in scheduling one. 


Why are my water payments processed out of state?

In 2016, we partnered with KeyBank to have their facility in Albany, NY (this was their closest facility) process all of our mailed payments.  Please see our press release sent at that time.  This new revenue collection process has streamlined our operations and allowed us to work more efficiently on your behalf.  There is no impact to customers who make in person payments at any of our available drop off sites.  The change has eliminated the need for our Customer Service Team to manually open, review and record those mailed payments.  As a result, our existing three person team has been able to focus further on water resources education and outreach.  There are many innovative tools and services within our industry and we are excited to offer them to you.  This change only impacts payments sent via the US Postal Service and there are many other ways to pay your bill.


What is the franchise fee charge on my bill?

The City of Burlington charges Water Resources (and other utilities) a franchise fee based on 3.5% of our gross sales and services revenues.  The fee is in exchange for our use of the City streets and rights-of-way for the utility pipe network and related structures.  This is allowed by City Charter and you can review both the ordinance (begin with 27-119) and the MOU executed in 1990 that increased the fee.

Prior to 7/1/17 this fee was incorporated into our rate structure and not shown separately on the bills.  However, we strive to be as transparent as possible with our rate development process, so it has been removed from the rates and is now a standalone charge.  The 3.5% is calculated on your current charges and is inclusive any service fees charged (e.g., returned payments, final reading requests).  Our Stormwater utility is exempt from the franchise fee.     


Why do you charge a fee to pay with credit cards or echecks?

In 2014, the City partnered with MuniciPAY to process any credit card or echeck payments via an online portal and the service fee charged goes directly to them.  We decided to not absorb the cost of the service fee because less than 2% of our customers use that payment method.  We believe that asking all rate payers to absorb a charge that most are not utilizing isn't equitable.  If you would prefer a free payment option then we welcome you to pay in cash, check or set up automatic debit.


How do I sign up for paperless billing or online account access?

Good news! Water Resources has an online platform where you can opt for paperless billing; you can even review your consumption and payment history too!  You will need a valid email address and a recent bill to set up your account. 


Why was I charged interest on my bill?

Per Burlington City Ordinance section 31-20 (a), if a bill remains unpaid on the due date then it is subject to an interest charge of twelve (12) percent per annum or 1% per month.  As a result of rising postage costs, we only mail interest statements for balances of $200 or more. 


My water pressure seems low, why?

There are several reasons why this may be occurring, please review the most common explanations below.

  • Does your house have a galvanized service line? These pipes experience build up over time (tuberculation) and eventually severely restrict the flow of water to and through your home.  Please contact Customer Service at  863-4501 to schedule a free appointment to assess your pipe condition.
  • Have you recently been working in the basement by the water meter? Sometimes the valve on your meter can be nudged or bumped and this will restrict flow. Please be sure it is wide open to restore proper flow!
  • Do you have a pressure reducing valve?  High PSI can wear on appliances and you may have installed a pressure reducing valve to help combat this.  Please double check the setting to ensure it's not too low. 
  • Have you confirmed if our Field Service crews are in your neighborhood?  We are often doing routine maintenance (or emergency repairs) in the City and this may cause low pressure.  Please check in with Customer Service to see where our crews are today. 
  • Have you noticed a Fire Sprinkler company in your neighborhood?  You may have a neighbor having work done on their sprinkler system and companies are required to notify us. Please review our Fire Protection Notifications to see if someone is working nearby. 

My sewer line is backing up! Who do I call?

If you are experiencing a sewer back up in your home, please call the DPW Customer Service at 863-9094 (ext 3)to report a possible sewer main obstruction.  They will investigate the sewer main closest to your home and make repairs if needed.  If the City's main is clear then you would need to contact a private business to troubleshoot your sewer lateral and any interior pipes at your own expense.


How is wastewater treated and where does it go?

Burlington has three wastewater plants that treat raw sewage and they are located on Riverside Avenue, North Avenue Extension and Lavalley Lane.  We treat domestic and industrial sewage to levels that ensure public health and the biological integrity of the waters that receive discharges from these facilities.  The end product is highly treated water which must meet stringent federal standards.  Burlington is also unique in that stormwater for much of the City is collected and treated at the Main Plant on Lavalley Lane prior to discharge into Lake Champlain.  


What are those colorful markings on the sidewalk? My lawn?

Great question! Vermont State Law requires anyone digging on public or private land to have the utility lines marked.  Digsafe is a free service (paid for by member utilities) that notifies utility companies to go mark their lines which helps avoid costly mistakes and outages.  What do the colors mean? Review this brochure to find out! Need more information?  Visit for the whole scoop and remember to call 1-888-344-7233 to dig safely! 


Is the water safe to drink?

Yes! Burlington meets or exceeds all the federal and state drinking water standards for water quality.  We produce a consumer confidence report each year that summarizes the detectable contaminants and compares our results to Federal and State standards. For questions regarding water quality please call 863-4501 and ask to speak to one of our friendly Water Plant Operators.


Where does my water come from?

Burlington is fortunate to have such a quality source in Lake Champlain. Water is pumped from over 4,000 feet off shore at a depth of over 40 feet and then processed at the Water Treatment Plant.


What is the stormwater charge on my water bill?

What is this stormwater fee on my bill, and what are you doing with it?

The City of Burlington’s Stormwater Program was formed in 2009, as part of our ongoing effort to meet state and federal water quality standards for Lake Champlain and other local rivers and streams. Part of this program included the addition of a stormwater ‘user fee,’ assessed as part of your monthly water bill.

Addressing these requirements is key to improving the water quality of Lake Champlain, and helps keep Burlington a great place to live and visit.  This fee supports the work the Stormwater Program is doing to address stormwater pollution in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

The Stormwater Program employs one full time staff member, and funds a portion of four other technical staff positions that provide support to the Program. The Stormwater Program Manager oversees a variety of activities for Burlington, including:

  • Implementation of the City’s Chapter 26 Ordinance, which requires a review of any project resulting in more than 400 square feet of earth work, or expanding impervious surfaces on site so that the total impervious is greater than or equal to 2,500 square feet;
  • Oversight and implementation of the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) Permit;
  • Coordination with other City Departments on Capital Improvement projects – focusing specifically on areas of the City’s Combined Sewer network where there is an opportunity to detain Stormwater during rain events to alleviate pressure on the City’s wastewater infrastructure;
  • Planning and implementation of projects that provide detention opportunities as described above, or treatment of Stormwater in separated sewer areas to address water quality concerns in Lake Champlain and other surface waters in the City;
  • Coordination of the City’s Adopt-A-Drain Program, which is targeted at engaging citizens to assist in maintaining clear drains to minimize flooding in wet weather.

What do you consider an impervious surface?

Impervious surfaces are all surfaces where precipitation (rain, snowmelt, etc) runs off rather than infiltrating into the ground.  Rooftops, driveways, and walkways all qualify as impervious surface.  Gravel driveways and walkways are also considered impervious, due to the fact that these surfaces are heavily compacted and therefore do not infiltrate water.

How is impervious surface measured for directly assessed properties?

Impervious is currently calculated by the City for each directly assessed property using one or a combination of the following sources:

  • 2013 aerial photography provided by the State of Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI)
  • As-Built record drawings provided by an engineer or developer

If you believe there is an error on the delineation shown for the impervious surfaces on your parcel, you may request a review from the Stormwater Program. 

That form can be found here:  Review Request Form

Why doesn't the delineation match up with the aerial photo better?

Original delineations were created from 2004 aerial photography, updated and/or validated when 2013 aerial photography became available. Aerial photographs always have slight distortions by nature in which they are captured and processed. Furthermore, when comparing two different aerial photographs of the same area, objects will likely not line up exactly the same (ex. Building rooftops). If you believe there is an error in your delineation, you may request a review.

Why doesn't my property show an impervious surface delineation?

Single family, Duplex, and Triplex properties are charged a flat fee.  If your property shows diagonal black lines instead of a purple overlay, it is because your property is being charged the flat fee.  If you believe this is an error, please contact the Stormwater Program at

I have implemented practices on my property to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff - how do I apply for credit?

Credits are currently available for directly assessed properties only.  The City of Burlington’s Stormwater Credit Manual outlines the credits available for directly assessed properties, and the process for applying for a credit.  The Stormwater Program is currently in the process of updating Burlington’s Stormwater Credit Manual to expand credits for ‘flat fee’ (Single Family, Duplex & Triplex) customers, and to make the application process a little easier.