Water and Sewer FAQs

How do I get my water turned on or off?

Please call us at least 24-hours in advance at 617-972-6420, Option 3 and speak with the Water Supervisor. The Water Supervisor will confirm that we are able to operate the shut off box. Then schedule an appointment.

How do I change the billing name or address on my water bill?

To change the address of the water bill, please come to the Department of Public Works located at 124 Orchard Street and show identification as proof of the address. To change the billing name, please provide a copy of the deed or a recent mortgage   payment showing the new billing name.

If you are unable to visit the office in person, you can also provide this information via mail, provided the information is attested to by a notary public.

Why is my water/sewer bill higher than my neighbor’s bill?

Each bill is based on the actual usage, and every family uses water differently. You cannot base your bill on your neighbor’s. If you have questions about your usage, please contact us at 617-972-6420 menu option #2 and we will try to answer your questions. Please be advised that small water leaks can be costly. For additional information please see Unrepaired Leaks Can Be Costly Flyer.

Who do I call if I have a sewer back-up?

If you are having a sewer problem, please call us before you call a plumber. We will come out and check our main sewer, and let you know if the problem is ours or yours. There is no sense in paying a plumber to tell you your lateral is fine, and the problem is with the main sewer.

What should I do when I move out?

Final Water Reads are necessary when you sell your property. If the owner is using with a real estate agent, the agent must call us to schedule the appointment, to avoid scheduling duplication. If the homeowner is selling the property privately, either the attorney or the homeowner must call.

There is a fee of $25.00 when scheduled 7 working days out from the original telephone call and $40.00 when less than 7 working days. When scheduling the final read, the new Owner’s name and the mailing address must be available as this information is required for the billing process to ensure the water/sewer bill will be mailed to the proper owner.

Once the meter is read the paperwork must be picked up the following workday at the DPW, 124 Orchard Street. Public Works does not do final water reads on Wednesdays.

I’m building a new house; how do I get water/sewer service?

Before installation of a new water or sewer service can begin, a site plan must be submitted to DPW and approved. Once the plan is approved and a street opening permit is obtained, installation can begin. To obtain a water meter for a new water service, a building address must be assigned by DPW. Then a General Service Application must be filled out. There are fees for new services depending on building use and size.

How do I pay my City utility bill?

The City Water and Sewer Division bills quarterly, or four annual bills per account. Customers may pay the bills by mail (check only, made payable to the City of Watertown), online, or in person at the Treasurer’s Office at City Hall, 149 Main Street (cash, credit or check accepted). DPW does not accept payments for utility bills.

My water is rusty, what do I do?

From time to time, you may experience "rusty" water. This is usually caused by:

  • Hydrant flushing
  • Someone using a large flow of water in a short time
  • Unauthorized hydrant use
  • A water main break

This water is bacteriologically safe to drink, but unpleasant to look at.

This situation can usually be resolved by running your cold water until it clears up. Locate the closest and lowest cold-water faucet in your building. Remove the aerator if there is one and turn on the cold-water faucet for a few minutes. Do not use the hot water since the sediments may be pulled into the hot water tank. If the water is still discolored after running the cold water, turn off the faucet and check it again later. If discoloration continues contact us at 617-972-6420, Option 3.

How do I prevent a sewer back-up into my house?

You can do the following to help prevent a sewage backup:

  • Avoid putting grease down your garbage disposal or household drain. It can solidify, collect debris, and accumulate in city lines, or build up in your own system.
  • Never flush disposable diapers, wipes, sanitary napkins, or paper towels down the toilet. They could plug up your drains and may damage your plumbing system.
  • If you have an older home your lateral pipe joints could have deteriorated. Consider whether the roots of large shrubs or trees near the line could invade and break pipes. It is a good idea to know the location of your lateral line(s). Utility cards can often be acquired from your city planning department. Please be advised that Property Owners are responsible for their service laterals.
  • If the lowest level of your home is below ground level, such as a basement floor drain, it may one day be affected by a backup. One way to prevent a sewage backup through such below ground areas is to install a “back-flow valve” on the lowest drain(s). You can also use a plumber’s test plug to close these drains when not in use.
  • Always make sure that your plumbing system vent pipe is not plugged. (bird and squirrel activity is often the cause)
  • For further information about preventive measures, contact a plumber or plumbing supply dealer.

What are the requirements for an irrigation meter?

There are a few steps to obtaining an irrigation meter:

  • First, have your plumber pull a permit at the Building Department
  • The homeowner must then come into the Department of Public Works and fill out an application for a new meter. There is a $200 fee for the meter, which is supplied by the Department.
  • Please ensure that there is a Permit is on file with the Public Works Department.
  • The City will then supply the meter to the plumber, who is responsible for installation.

Please note that irrigation meters are billed at the top tier.

How do I split a service on my two-family house?

For multi-family houses with up to 4 units that would like to split a water service please see this information.

Why was my water off overnight with no explanation?

DPW, the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) have been or will be working on various streets in Watertown to replace very old waterpipes and valves.

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Each City street is defined by the lines between the water valves in the example picture. If any valves fail to work, then we must keep going to the next valve to isolate and control the water. 

When a valve (red) fails to work, the valves closest (yellow) must be closed, and if they fail, the next closest (blue) are then closed. 

These are the unforeseen circumstances that happen with an aging infrastructure.

While we make every effort to inform residents ahead of time, a lot of the work is done overnight between 10pm and 5am. It is not possible to contact everyone during that timeframe.