SAN ANTONIO -

Whether you are hydrating yourself or your lawn, the water bill adds up quick.

A quick look at the bills from San Antonio Water System, New Braunfels Utilities and the City of Boerne, and it's easy to see the bills vary -- even within the same company.

All three companies use a tiered rate setup to help those who conserve the most save more.

"We're trying to keep the lowest increment -- usually around 6,000 gallons -- as inexpensive as we can, because utilities usually consider that the lifeline rate. A customer who needs that water to survive versus (one who) is using water to water their lawn," said Boerne Deputy City Manager Jeff Thompson.

The base rate for each utility varies depending on whether you live inside or outside the city limits. The size of your meter can also affect the amount you pay for water.

Each of the companies has a minimum usage charge. In Boerne, it's $25.77. In New Braunfels, it's $10.35. If you are a SAWS customer, it's $7.14.

There is a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality state-imposed charge with all of the utilities, but it only shows up on the SAWS bill.

"We wanted to be open and transparent with our customers and we wanted to show what they're being charged by the state through SAWS," said SAWS Vice President Greg Flores.

SAWS also charges a water supply fee intended to cover infrastructure needed to bring new water to San Antonio.

Despite the additional fees, SAWS' rate for usage, whether it be drinking water or sewer water, is lower, making the overall bill one of the lowest in the area.

Each company also charges for wastewater, which in many cases ends up costing more than the water we drink.

Boerne combines their sewer availability and usage charges into one lump sum: "Anything that would be related to a water cost, which would be all the fees we talked about, whether it be TCEQ or anybody else that we're paying fees to," Thompson said.

All three companies aim to average the lowest three months of usage to come up with the sewer or wastewater charge.

The Defenders asked each utility to total a bill assuming a customer inside the city limits had used 7,500 gallons of water and 5,000 gallons of sewer water during the summer months.

SAWS bill was $54.38, the NBU bill was $54.70, and the Boerne bill was $89.92.

Thompson explained their rates are higher due to the maintenance and infrastructure costs being divided by only 5,000 customers. By comparison, SAWS has roughly 400,000 customers.

You may not be able to choose your water supplier, but you can reduce your bill by conserving water during the winter months to lower your sewer average year round.

If you want more specific information about the part of your bill you can cut down on or the rate you pay, you can visit your specific water utility's website.

Keep in mind that some of them vary depending on whether you live inside or outside the city limits, and the meter size is also a factor.

Click here to view SAWS rates

Click here to view SAWS (Ex-BexarMet) rates

Click here to view New Braunfels rates

Click here to view Boerne rates

For a list of recent stories April Molina has done, click here.