Common Public Works Questions

Utilities - Water, High Usage, Sewer, Billing, Easements, Leaks


My yard has been painted with different colors. What work is being done?

Utility companies have the right to work in the street right-of-way and the drainage and utility easement, to install or maintain their lines. Before work begins, the respective company is required to call ‘Gopher State One Call’. They then notify other utilities of the work to be performed. The other utility companies will then mark their existing lines in the area with paint.

  • Gas Lines = Yellow
  • Telephone & Cable TV = Orange
  • Electric = Red
  • Water = Blue
  • Wastewater = Green
  • Construction Limits = White

If you would like to find out what work is being performed, please contact the respective utility companies. You may also contact the Public Works Department for more information or if there is a color painted on your property that is not listed above. Call 952.873.6742 or email Public Works.  

What is a drainage and utility easement?

Typically, there is a ten-foot-wide easement adjacent to the right-of-way. It gives the City and the private utility companies the right to install and maintain underground or above-ground utilities (water main, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, telephone lines, gas lines, power lines, CATV lines).

A drainage problem involving public streets, stormwater inlets, storm sewers, or drainage ditches should be reported to the Public Works Department at 952.873.6742. If the drainage problem is on private property.  It is the responsibility of the property owner to complete repairs.

When is my meter read?

Your meter is read once a month, usually around the 26th.

Water and sewer utility bill: How do I change my account? How are meters read? Does the city accept auto pay?

Billing, new service & change service requests can be requested by calling 952-873-4644 or by emailing utilities.  You may pay your bill online

The city electronically reads the water meters each month. We collect the first four numbers off of your water meter register, which tells us how many thousands of gallons are used. We only bill for the thousand gallons that are used (see example). It is common to see fluctuations from one to two thousand gallons because we read by the thousands and don’t bill for the gallons used until it rolls to the next thousand.

For example, a new meter starts with a reading of zero (0000,000.00). A household uses 900 gallons in the first month (rdg = 0000,900.00). The reading that we receive from the meter is the first four numbers – which is still zero (0000). The next month the reading is 0002,300.00. The reading we receive is now 0002 (the first four numbers). Our billing system calculates the current reading, less the previous reading for a total of 2,000 gallons billed. Therefore, you have been billed for zero gallons for the previous month and 2,000 gallons in the current month, even though in reality you used 900 in the first month and 1400 in the second month. This can also explain why some residents who may average 2,333 gallons per month will see a jump to 3,000 gallons every third month.

You have access to your meter in your basement so we strongly recommend monitoring it for usage. The national average for usage per person per month is 1,500 gallons each. Multiply that by the number of people in your household to get an average of what you should be using. Monitoring your usage on a daily basis might help identify some areas where this can be reduced. Also, check the water level in the tanks of the toilets – make sure it is at least an inch below the overflow tube. And please fix any toilet that is running. If you can hear a toilet running it is similar to leaving a faucet run. The most common cause of elevated usage is a running toilet.

If you have questions please email utilities

When do I get a bill? When is the payment due?

Billing is done generally the day after the meters are read. Payments are due on the 21st of every month regardless of what day of the week this falls on. A ten percent penalty is added on the 22nd of each month on all past-due accounts. You can mail your payment to the City of Belle Plaine, 218 Meridian St N, PO Box 129, Belle Plaine, MN 56011, use the drop box outside of the front door at City Hall, or  pay your bill online .

Where is my main water shut-off?

Your main water shut-off is usually located in the basement or utility room.  It is important to know where your water main enters your home because this is also where the water meter is located.  

Where is my water shut-off curb stop?  

Your water shut-off is usually located within the right-of-way in front of or on the side of your home. 

How do I know if I have a leak?

You cannot always tell if you have a leak or what may be causing high usage. During the summer, keep in mind that you may water your yard, fill a pool, or use a sprinkler system. If you believe you have a higher than normal usage, try and take a reading of your meter before going to bed and then first thing in the morning. If you didn’t use the toilet or any other water sources during the night, the meter should read the same. Take into consideration that your water softener may be set to regenerate during the night. You can try and set it to regenerate once a week and then use an alternate night. Report any unusual water usage to utilities by calling 952-873-4644 or email utilities.  You may request an appointment to check your meter.

You can also try and find an alternate reason for high water usage by consulting the 12 most common reasons below:

12 Reasons for a High-Water Bill

  1. Leaky/Running Toilets: Toilets account for about 31 percent of the indoor water use for the average American home. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that they pose a major leak risk. A running or leaky toilet can waste to up a staggering 6,000 gallons per month and add hundreds of dollars to a water bill.
  • In most cases, these leaks will be caused by a faulty flapper in the toilet tank. This is a relatively easy fix that only requires a short trip to your local home hardware store and a few minutes of work. Here are two common methods of checking for a toilet leak: 
  • The Sound Check: Simply walk up to your toilet and listen. If you hear an odd hiss-like noise, you mayhave a leak and will want to check the tank flapper, water line connections, and seals further. 
  • The Dye Test: For this test, you’ll need some food coloring or a dye tablet. Take the lid off of your toilet’s tank and put in a couple of drops of coloring (or a dye tablet). After you’ve put the dye in the tank, wait for 15-20 minutes and check the toilet bowl for dye. If dye is present, then there’s a leak allowing tank water to flow into the bowl.
  1. Leaky/Running Toilets: Toilets account for about 31 percent of the indoor water use for the average American home. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that they pose a major leak risk. A running or leaky toilet can waste to up a staggering 6,000 gallons per month and add hundreds of dollars to a water bill. 
    • In most cases, these leaks will be caused by a faulty flapper in the toilet tank. This is a relatively easy fix that only requires a short trip to your local home hardware store and a few minutes of work. Here are two common methods of checking for a toilet leak: 
      • The Sound Check: Simply walk up to your toilet and listen. If you hear an odd hiss-like noise, you mayhave a leak and will want to check the tank flapper, water line connections, and seals further. 
      • The Dye Test: For this test, you’ll need some food coloring or a dye tablet. Take the lid off of your toilet’s tank and put in a couple of drops of coloring (or a dye tablet). After you’ve put the dye in the tank, wait for 15-20 minutes and check the toilet bowl for dye. If dye is present, then there’s a leak allowing tank water to flow into the bowl.
  2. Leaky Faucets & Fixtures: Leaky faucet fixtures are another common cause of high water bills. The heavier the leak, the more water gets wasted, and the higher the water bill will be. For example, a faucet that’s leaking about one drip per second can waste about 17 gallons over the course of a day. Thankfully, a leaking faucet is relatively easy to spot and fix. A simple visual check of your faucets, showerheads, and other fixtures is all it takes to identify a leak at the fixture. The most common cause of a faucet leak is a faulty rubber washer in the faucet handle. In most cases, you can shut off the water to the leaky faucet, unscrew the handle, remove the bad washer, and replace it with a new one.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  3. Leaky Washing Machines or Dishwashers: Your washing machine may be leaking, but because they're often tucked away in closets and corners, many people don't notice. So, be sure to check underneath it. You might also consider a high-efficiency washer, which can use up to 50% less water than older models. Your dishwasher could be leaking as well.  Using a newer dishwasher uses less water than washing by hand. CNET reports getting dishes clean in the sink can use up to 27 gallons of water per load, and that an Energy Star-certified dishwasher can save almost 5,000 gallons of water per year. Be sure to check #10 on our list for more on washing machines and dishwashers!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  4. Irrigation Leaks: Not all leaks occur indoors. If you have an irrigation system for your landscaping, a line crack or loose joint could allow water to leak even when the irrigation system is off. Finding these leaks can be a little trying, especially if the lines for the irrigation system are buried out of sight. To spot these leaks, you may need to check your lawn for unusually damp patches or areas of grass that are lusher than its surroundings. Keep in mind, however, these signs of a leak are similar to the signs of a leak in a lateral line. To fix this kind of leak, you may need to consult a professional plumber to find the location of the leak and to fix or replace the affected irrigation lines.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  5. Lateral Line Leaks: In some cases, one of the underground pipes feeding water from your metered connection to your home may have a crack or loose joint. The causes of these leaks vary, but things such as pipe age, seismic activity, tree root intrusion, and animal activity are often contributing factors. This problem, while similar to an irrigation leak, is usually much more severe. When trying to tell if the leak is in your irrigation line or your lateral line water supply pipe, the amount of extra water consumption noted on your utility bill can serve as an indicator. For these leaks, the best solution is to contact a professional. A professional can recommend the best solution for the problem—such as a traditional trench & replace trenchless pipe lining, or pipe bursting.                                                            
  6. Old, Outdated Fixtures & Toilets: Old plumbing fixtures may use more water. Numerous efficiency improvements have been made to common water fixtures, such as new-model aerators for faucets, low-flow water-saving toilets, and water-saving showerheads. Check your home’s faucets, toilets, showerheads, and other water-using equipment for WaterSense labeling, or date of manufacture. When buying a new home, ask the owner or real estate agent whether the plumbing fixtures have been replaced since the home’s construction. If you are looking to update to efficient fixtures we have a rebate program for that.                                                                                     
  7. Seasonal Changes & Water Consumption:  A change of seasons can change your water consumption. Summer is notorious for higher water bills for a number of reasons such as: (a) household members are more active, and sweat more, leading to more showers, (b) lawns and plants need to be watered regularly, (c) kids are home more throughout the day during summer break, (d) you may wash your car more often at home, (e) air conditioners may be water-cooled, and (f) pools may be filled.  Water bill increases can happen in other months as well. For example, in the winter, you may run your water on occasion to avoid freezing pipes. Or, humidifiers attached to the furnace could be improperly adjusted or malfunctioning.                                                                                                                                                                
  8. Household Guests: One small change in your household situation can have a big impact on your utility bill. For example, adding a new guest/family member to your household. This is especially common during the holidays when kids are on break and back home, or family or friends are staying over. The best fix to counter or prevent a sharp spike in your water use is to plan ahead when possible. In some cases, you may need to budget for higher water consumption during certain months or for as long as you have that additional person in your home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  9. New Water-Consuming Equipment: On a related note, adding new water-intensive equipment to your home can also cause a significant increase in your water bill. Pools, sprinkler systems, washing machines, freezers, and other new equipment can result in a sudden increase in your water bill. To minimize the impact of new equipment on your water bill, try to select appliances that are marked as high-efficiency or have the WaterSense logo. If you add a pool to your property, be sure to cover it when it’s not being used to minimize the water loss from evaporation, so you don’t have to use as much water to refill it.                                                                                         
  10. Bad Water Wasting Habits: Often, a substantial water bill can be the result of overconsumption behaviors affiliated with appliances and home utilities. Some of these behaviors include: (a) using top-loading laundry machines, which consume as much as 200% more water than modern, front-loading laundry machines, (b) using washing machines for half-or quarter-loads, as opposed to waiting for full laundry loads, (c) overwatering lawns and unmediated use of water-consuming recreational toys and equipment, (d) lengthy and unnecessary shower times, keeping shower time to less than five minutes can result in up to 1,000 gallons of water savings every month, (e) running water to thaw meats and frozen foods, as opposed to taking them out of freezers at earlier, more appropriate times, (f) washing dishes by hand, running water while washing a load of dishes consumes 4-5 times more water than dishwashers, (g) keeping water running while brushing teeth or shaving, is an unnecessary waste of water flow.                                                                                          
  11. Faulty Water Softener Systems:  Water softener systems periodically backwash themselves with fresh water to regenerate. However, sometimes the backwash valve gets stuck in the open position, causing water to be continuously wasted in the sewer system. The result is alot of water waste and a really high bill. Your best bet if you suspect a problem with your water softener system is to contact a professional or find troubleshooting videos online.                                                                                                                                                                                        
  12. Water Meter Mistakes: Do none of the above apply? It's possible your meter may simply be mistaken. It happens but is extremely rare. For example, in 2017, the City of Hollywood, Florida had to replace residents' meters (to the tune of $7 million) because they had not been designed to handle South Florida's hot, humid, and wet weather. As a result, they were providing inaccurate readings. 

My water meter is leaking. Will the City repair it?

The city maintains the water line within the public road right-of-way. The rest of the system is the property owner's responsibility. The city does not provide a repair service. The city will shut off the water at the curb stop, if needed, for repair. In an emergency situation, call the Public Works after-hours number at 952.658.9051. If your repair is not an emergency, please call Public Works at 952.873.6742. Please allow up to 24 hours before the repair is to be made to schedule the water shut-off. The curb stop will be located ahead of time and checked for operability. A maintenance worker will meet with you or your representative at the scheduled time to shut off the water.

Who is responsible for frozen water service lines?

If you own the property and your property has a water service line that runs underground and connects to the city water main and then to your water meter, you are responsible for making sure the line and the curb stop/shut-off valve/s are working. You are also responsible for hiring and paying someone to repair your water line if it leaks or freezes. Most service lines are buried deep enough to ensure that freezing does not happen. If the lines have not frozen in the past, more than likely, they will not freeze.

You can avoid frozen lines by keeping temperatures above freezing in basement spaces where the service line enters the home. If your meter is in a separate room, open the door enough to allow airflow. Keep a faucet in the lowest level of your home running at a trickle until the ground thaws. Make sure your drain is free of debris to prevent overflowing or flooding. Place a visible note on the faucet reminding other people in your home to not turn the water off. Turning the water off, for even a few minutes, can cause a recently frozen line to freeze again. If you have a service line that often freezes, keep the basement temperature above freezing in the winter. You can also consider hiring a qualified contractor to lower your service line to a depth that can't be reached by the frost.

Potholes, Street Sweeping, Snow Emergency & Removal, Codes & Violations Information


How do I report a pothole?

There is a form on our website that you can fill out or you can call Public Works at 952.873.6742.

When does the city sweep the streets?

Streets are swept every Friday from Spring through Fall until the snow hits. Please call Public Works at 952.873.6742 if your street is in need of sweeping.

Snow Emergency & Removal Information:

The winter weather imposes many obstacles for both residents & City staff. It is important to remember City policies & procedures regarding snow & ice removal.

It is the responsibility of the owner and occupant of any property adjacent to a public sidewalk to remove any snow, ice, and/or rubbish no later than 24 hours after any obstructions have been deposited. Any removal by the City will be recorded and assessed against the property.

Parking will not be permitted on residential streets during a snow emergency when the snow has accumulated to a depth of one-half (½) inch or more. Downtown parking will be posted as NO PARKING during a snow emergency. To ensure that your vehicle does not get towed away due to a violation of a snow emergency, the Belle Plaine Police Department offers a free program called Nixle, which allows an e-mail and text message to any cell phone regarding the information on snow emergencies and/or community information. Sign up for free at www.nixle.com. You may also create an account on this website and sign up for alerts. 

Does the City replace landscaping, sod, and/or sprinkler systems that are damaged by snowplows?

The city will repair boulevards disturbed or damaged by snowplows with black dirt and grass seed. This work will be performed in the Spring. If any landscaping and/or sprinkler systems are placed in the City’s right-of-way, it is placed there at the homeowners’ risk and will be the responsibility of the homeowner.

A City snowplow hit my mailbox. What are the guidelines and process to replace?

The City of Belle Plaine accepts responsibility for damages to mailboxes when the following criteria apply:

The mailbox location and construction must comply with USPS Regulations and Specifications. Mailboxes that are in compliance and damaged by physically being struck by a plow blade, wing, or another piece of equipment will be reimbursed. Please note damage caused by snow hitting the mailbox is not covered.

To have your mailbox repaired or replaced, please contact City Hall at 952.873.5553. They can help you with the process.

Mailbox Installation:

The City of Belle Plaine recommends that you call Gopher State One Call at 800-252-1166 before you do any digging. Why? City right-of-ways are the areas provided for the placement of many public utilities, including electric, gas, phone, water, sewer, and cable TV services.

Mailboxes should be USPS-approved. They must be placed flush with the back of the curb and 39" to 42" from the top of the curb to the bottom of the mailbox. Newspaper boxes and other containers should be set back a minimum of 6 inches from the back of the curb. The post should be set back a minimum of 12 inches from the back of the curb.

Placement Standards:

Do not attach to utility poles or other public utility structures. A minimum of 12 feet in all directions from fire hydrants must be maintained.

All supports must be of sufficient strength to withstand the pressure of snow being pushed against them and constructed of substances that won’t deteriorate rapidly, i.e. treated lumber and/or iron. Snow around the mailbox is the resident’s responsibility. If the post office can’t get access, they will not deliver your mail until access is provided.

Code Violation Concerns and Reporting

The Community Development Department addresses code enforcement complaints. The process requires a written complaint and inspection. More information is available on the code enforcement page

What can I do if there are trees or bushes that are overgrown that are affecting visibility or access?

If the trees are within the city right-of-way and obstruct the view of street signage or intersections, please contact the Public Works Department at 952.873.6742.

Please be aware that trees are not to be planted within the boulevard. The City’s practice is to not replace trees within the boulevard because of public utilities being installed in the right-of-way. Public Works will contact the homeowner by sending a letter. This is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain, and you must adhere to City Code 400.03 Public Nuisances Affecting Peace and Safety. You will be given a certain timeframe to correct. After the timeframe has lapsed, Public Works will take care of the obstruction and bill the homeowner for the time and equipment used.

If your trees are removed due to a street project, the City does have a replacement policy of up to $125/tree. Please contact City Hall at 952.873.5553 for the specifics and how to apply for reimbursement.