Close-up shot of water meter

Estimated Billing

Due to COVID-19, San Jose Water is moving to estimated billing until the shelter-in-place order is lifted.

Beginning March 17, 2020, the Santa Clara County Public Health Office put in place a legal order for residents to shelter at home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

While our area is under a shelter-in-place order, we are minimizing the number of employees in the field. One step will be to utilize estimated billing.

For most of our customers, our meter readers manually read the meter every other month and a bill is produced. There are more than 230,000 meters within our service area. It takes a full two months to read all the meters and produce a bi-monthly bill.

How does estimated billing work?

For most of our customers with a consumption history, San Jose Water will look at your prior year’s usage during the same time period to determine an estimated usage for your home.

When the shelter-in-place order is lifted, we will resume manual reading of your meter for the next billing period. Any difference between your estimated usage and actual usage will be automatically adjusted on your bill.

Why are you estimating my bill?

We are taking this action due to the shelter-in-place order from the State of California and Santa Clara County. The order limits any unnecessary activities that could put the public at risk. Our goal is to limit as much interaction with the public as possible.

How can I tell if my bill has been estimated?

There will be a message printed on your bill stating:

In order to uphold social distancing and confinement measures, we will not be reading meters manually. As a result, this is an estimated bill. We appreciate your prompt payment. Please visit for more information.

How long will estimated billing last?

At this time, it will last as long as the shelter-in-place directive. All decisions will be made according to orders from the state and county to protect our employees, customers and community.

What happens when you start reading meters again?

When we return to manual meter reads, we will be able to determine how much water was actually used since the last time the meter was read. If your actual usage was less than your estimated usage, you will receive a credit on your bill. If your actual usage was higher than your estimated usage, you will be billed for the difference.

Do I have to pay the estimated bill?

We appreciate your responsiveness to paying your water bill.

If you are having difficulty paying your bill, please contact our office via email at or by phone at (408) 279-7900. We’re here to help you through this difficult time.

Are existing meter reads included on current bills?

Yes, this bill will look exactly the same as a current one. However, it will have a message indicating that it is “estimated.”

How do you estimate my bill if I wasn’t living at this address a year ago?

We look at recent usage and trends within your area or neighborhood.

Why have I seen San Jose Water trucks in my neighborhood if you are not reading meters?

SJW will continue to respond to emergencies and critical needs — ensuring the continued reliable delivery of safe and clean water.  This requires our staff to be active in your community responding to these issues.  Please respect the social distancing “6-foot” rule when it comes to approaching those you see in the field. Thank you for your vigilance and please report leaks by calling (408) 279-7900.




Under extraordinary circumstances, San Jose Water is allowed to estimate meter readings. The California Public Utilities Commission states: If, because of unusual conditions or for reasons beyond the utility's control, it is unable to read the customer's meter on the scheduled reading date, it may bill the customer for estimated consumption during the billing period and make any necessary corrections when a reading is obtained. Estimated consumption for this purpose will be calculated considering the customer's prior usage, the utility's experience with other customers of the same class in that area, and the general characteristics of the customer's operations. Adjustments for any underestimate or overestimate of a customer's consumption will be reflected on the first regularly scheduled bill rendered, and based on an actual reading following the period of inaccessibility.