Contact Us

Location: 8250 and 8270 Old Montgomery Road, Columbia, Md. 21045

Phone: 410-313-4900

Fax: 410-313-4919

Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Emergencies: Please call 410-313-4900.

After Hour Emergencies: Please call 410-313-2929.
Calls are radio dispatched to service crews - 24 hours a day.

Bureau of Utilities Mission Statement

Emergency Repairs

Date & Time # of Homes Description Address Status
1/21/22 9:55 AM    32 Broken Water Valve 3100 Block of Hayfield Drive also affecting Joey Drive & Old Fence Road. 6 Hours
1/21/22 10:23  48 Services Broken Water Valve 3100-3420 North Ridge Road in Ellicott City Pending

Upcoming Scheduled Repairs

Scheduled Repairs listed here will be posted at least 72 hours before the start of work

Date to Begin Description Address Status
1/21/22 9:00 AM Fire Hydrant Replacement 5900 Block of Setter Drive in Elkridge. Scheduled
1/21/22 9:00 AM Fire Hydrant Replacement 3100 Block Hayfield Drive in Ellicott City. Scheduled
1/24/22 9:00 AM Water Tie-In  10586-10598 Jason Court in Wilde Lake. Scheduled
1/25/22 9:00 AM Water Valve Insertion 10600 Faulkner Ridge Circle also affecting Phantom Court, Windmill Court, Paul Revere Ride, Green Bough Court, Open Window, Iron Pen Place, Mad River Lane, Harvest Moon Lane, Spotted Horse Lane, August Light, Big Woods Court, Hesperus Drive and Lighthouse Court. Scheduled

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Bureau of Utilities - Water Quality

The Bureau of Utilities conducts regular testing of various water conditions at over 150 locations throughout the system to ensure the highest quality water available for the citizens of Howard County.

Results are available in your 2021 Water Quality Report

2021 Howard County Water Quality Report

2021 Howard County Water Quality Report - Korean

2021 Howard County Water Quality Report - Spanish

Past Reports:

2020 Howard County Water Quality Report

2019 Howard County Water Quality Report

2018 Howard County Water Quality Report

2017 Howard County Water Quality Report

2016 Howard County Water Quality Report

2015 Howard County Water Quality Report

2014 Howard County Water Quality Report

2013 Howard County Water Quality Report

Locating and Marking Public Water and Sewer Lines

As a member of Maryland's "One Call Concept" system (or "Miss Utility") Howard County receives more than 100 daily requests from excavators to locate and mark public water and sewer lines.

Please call "Miss Utility" at 1-800-257-7777, or 811, at least 48 hours prior to work, to have all utilities located. ( BGE, Verizon, Comcast, etc.)

Blue paint = Water lines - Green paint = Sewer lines

See below for corresponding marking color codes for all utilities.

Note to Homeowners:

Howard County does not locate or mark your private water and sewer lines. We have no information or maps indicating specifically where the plumber installed your private water and sewer lines. We only mark up to your property line, which usually means your water meter ( or ball valve ) and the sewer cleanout that is usually located along your property line.

Anything beyond that point and your house, including your sewer cleanout, is considered your private water and sewer lines and are your responsibility to maintain and have located, if needed.

Some things to keep in mind:

By code, the plumber should have installed your water and sewer lines at least 36" deep. That is the "frost line" for this area, to prevent freezing in winter. If you're digging 18" or less, there should be no conflict with your water or sewer lines.

( Though we do not recommend planting trees with deep root systems over your sewer line. A potential sewer blockage issue in the future. )

Also, as an example, if a plumber was to repair your outside water service, they would look for two points of reference to determine how your water line runs on your property :

the location of the water meter ( or ball valve ) at the property line.
the point at which your water comes into your house.
Between those two points they would have a general idea of how the water runs on your property. It's usually a 'straight shot' between those two points, but that's the type of knowledge, about your private water and sewer lines, for which the County has no specific information.

Howard County is legally obligated to locate / mark our public water and sewer utilities only when an excavator is digging within 5 feet of our utilities.

However, we realize that ball valve box lids and sewer cleanouts sometimes get buried, or you just can't determine where they're located. If you would need these items located, to assist you in determining how your private water and sewer lines run on your property, please give us a call at 410-313-4900. We will be happy to send a locator out to your home with any location information and a metal detector, to locate these two items. This will show the area at which water and sewer come onto your property.

In Howard County, the water meter ( or ball valve ) is the County's responsibility to maintain, whereas the sewer cleanout is the homeowner's responsibility to maintain.

An illustration of where the County's responsibility ends and the homeowner's responsibility begins for your sewer service.

Getting responses from your Miss Utility ticket:

As per Maryland's State Senate Bill 879, passed in May 2001, all Utility owners are required to provide a "Positive Response" to all One Call Concept Tickets.

If you have called in a ticket, you can check the "status" of your ticket, indicating the various utilities that have been "marked" or "cleared" for your job, at Miss Utility's website.

You can also call the toll-free Miss Utility Ticket Check® system to get the "status" of your ticket.

Miss Utility Ticket Check ® - 1-866-821-4226.

Please have your ticket number available. You will be prompted for an "ID Code". That will be the callback phone number you provided when you called in the ticket.

Please allow 48 hours for your ticket to be processed.

Each Utility ( BGE, Comcast, Verizon, etc. ) will provide a "Response Code" :

Code 1: Clear/No conflict.
Code 2: Marked.
Code 3: 24- hour delay.
Code 4: 48- hour delay.
Code 5: Not complete/In progress: Have spoken with the excavator.
Code 9: Marked up to privately owned utility.
Code 10: Incorrect address information. 

Bureau of Utilities - Underground Utility Markings - Color Code


Download the above color chart. Suitable for printing.
( 6.5 X 5 inches ) 

Miss Utility's Homeowner Brochure containing additional information. 

Frequently Asked Questions
Lead in Drinking Water

How Lead Gets into Drinking Water

Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures.

Cold Weather Best Practices

Your Water Pipes- Cold Weather Best Practices

As winter approaches Howard County’s Bureau of Utilities would like to offer residents some suggestions on how to avoid the damage that can be caused when water pipes freeze and burst.

LPWRP - Enhanced Nutrient Removal

The Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant is undergoing a $92-million Enhanced Nutrient Removal Expansion and Improvements project ( Addition No. 7 ).

Completion of the ENR portion of the project is scheduled to be placed in service in spring of 2012. This will increase the plant's ability to treat wastewater before its release into the Little Patuxent River and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

Excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, lead to degraded water quality, which negatively impacts plant and animal life in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. These excess nutrients can flow into the Bay from wastewater treatment plant discharges, stormwater runoff and from rainfall.

Howard County is excited to be moving forward with this advanced treatment technique to facilitate the cleanup effort.

Fats, Oils and Grease ( FOG) Program

Pretreatment Program

Did you know that nearly 50 percent of all sewage overflows nationwide are caused by homeowners who improperly dispose of everyday Fats, Oils and Grease ( FOG) ? These overflows are not just public health issues, but can result in serious damage to our environment, especially pollution of our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

As the lead agency that responds to sewage overflows, the Bureau of Utilities has taken on the challenge of educating residents on how they can and should dispose of these fats, oils and grease which are found in foods and food ingredients we use in our homes everyday: meat, cooking oil, butter, shortening, margarine, baked goods, sauces and dairy products.

Fire Hydrant Use

Effective Immediately Inspection of rented Fire Hydrant Meters has been suspended indefinitely.

For safety reasons, the Bureau of Utilities is requiring all tanker trucks that are over 30 feet long to use the hydrant located at the West Friendship Fire Station on east bound Rt. 99 just east of Rt. 32. It is requested, again for safety reasons, that all tanker trucks filling with large volumes of water use this location. Additional information can be obtained by calling the Bureau of Utilities at 410-313-4977.

High Water Usage Information

Did You Know?

A running toilet is the most common cause for increased water usage. Perform a simple test on ALL toilets:

  • Add food coloring to tank of all toilets
  • Let coloring sit for at least an hour 
  • Check to see if water color in bowl has changed
Hot Water Heater "Dip Tube" Issue

The Bureau of Utilities, over the past few years, has received a number of complaints from homeowners about low water pressure and a decrease in the availability of hot water in their homes.

Upon inspection these problems were found to be due to a defective part of the homeowner's hot water heater. The extension of the cold water supply pipe ( the "Dip Tube" ) in the hot water heater was found to be disintegrating, causing plastic particles to clog up the aerators ( screens ) in the faucets of the home.

New Water and Sewer House Connections

Please see the link below.

Private Well and Septic Systems

Private Well and Septic Systems

The Bureau of Utilities administers and maintains the County's public water and sewer system serving the eastern area of the county.

If you are not connected to the public water / sewer system and have questions about your private well and septic system, please see the county's Health Department's Well and Septic Program page.

Public Water Supply Source

Howard County Public Water Supply Sources

If you live in the North Laurel area, east of Interstate 95 and south of Patuxent Range Road, your water comes from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission ( WSSC ) in Laurel.

If you live anywhere else in Howard County and are connected to public water, your water comes from Baltimore City.

Sewerage Backups

Bureau of Utilities - Sewage Backups

If you are connected to the public sewer system and experience a sewer blockage, it is recommended that you call the County first at 410-313-4900 before calling a plumber.

We can dispatch a sewer truck to send a high-pressure water hose down through the cleanout, near your property line, out to the sewer main.

This can possibly resolve the problem, if the blockage is on the County's side ( public ), but, in any event, will ensure that the County's portion of your sewer service is open and not causing the problem.

This knowledge can be helpful if you do have to call a plumber to repair your private sewer.

Sewer Cleanout Cap Repair

In Howard County it is the Homeowner's responsibility to maintain their sewer cleanout in a working condition. This prevents possible sewer backups from debris entering the system. Also it complies with the Howard County Code Section 18.122 A, stating "... No sewer system user shall discharge or cause to be discharged to the public sewerage system, stormwater, surface water, groundwater,...".

This prevents excessive flow in the system, safeguarding the system and preventing expensive construction costs for treatment capacities.

Sewer Connection Loan Program

Water and Sewer Connection Loan Program Begins

Howard County has begun a program to assist property owners with the costs of connecting to the sanitary sewer system, as part of County
efforts to protect the environment, keep groundwater clean and improve infrastructure. 

The purpose of the program is to encourage as many property owners as possible to connect to the existing system in order to reduce the number of septic systems.

Underground Utilities Marking - Color Codes

Bureau of Utilities - Water & Sewer Location Office

Location : 8270 Old Montgomery Rd.
Hours : Mon-Fri, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Phone : 410-313-4900 - Fax : 410-313-4989

After Hours Emergencies : 410-313-2929

As a member of Maryland's "One Call Concept" system ( or "Miss Utility" ) Howard County receives more than 100 daily requests from excavators to locate and mark public water and sewer lines.

Wastewater C.M.O.M.

Wastewater Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance

The Wastewater Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance Program ( CMOM ) is intended to cover all aspects of sanitary sewer collection and conveyance from wastewater generation to treatment.

The primary purpose of the CMOM is to collect information and manage resources to reduce and ultimately eliminate sanitary sewer overflows by collating, tracking, and improving the efficiency of the sewage system.

Water & Sewer Billing - Department of Finance

Water/sewer bills are issued on a quarterly basis. Water usage charges are a property lien. The property owner is responsible for payment of the water/sewer charges. The County does not pro-rate between buyer/seller or landlord/tenant.

Charges are based on metered water usage. The usage of consumption is multiplied by the current water and sewer rates. There is a water account user charge based on meter size and a sewer account charge set at a flat rate. The water account charges and the sewer account charge are billed each quarter even if there is no water usage.

Water & Sewer House Connection Charges & Rate Schedule

Please see the link below.

Water and Sewer Line Location

Bureau of Utilities - Water & Sewer Location Office

Location : 8270 Old Montgomery Rd.
Hours : Mon-Fri, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Phone : 410-313-4900 - Fax : 410-313-4989

After Hours Emergencies : 410-313-2929

As a member of Maryland's "One Call Concept" system ( or "Miss Utility" ) Howard County receives more than 100 daily requests from excavators to locate and mark public water and sewer lines.

Please call "Miss Utility" at 1-800-257-7777, or 811, at least 48 hours prior to work, to have all utilities located. ( BGE, Verizon, Comcast, etc.)

Water Main Breaks

Bureau of Utilities - Water Main Breaks

Among our responsibilities that lead to a stable, quality water system for Howard County, the timely repair of water main breaks is a priority.

In 2013, the Bureau of Utilities repaired 160 water main breaks. We sincerely appreciate your patience when such inconveniences arise in your area.

If you notice water coming up out of a road, curb and gutter, or other area, please avoid the location as the water may have caused unsafe undermining of the surface. Call us at 410-313-4900 to report the situation and we will respond immediately.

Water Meter Lid or Ball Valve Box Lid Repair

Water Meter Vault or Ball Valve Box Lid Repair

Located along your property line, there is a water meter or a ball valve box that provides access to a ball valve that can be used to shut off the water serving your house - in case of a water leak in your home, for example.

These plastic Ball Valve Box Lids sometimes get damaged by lawnmowers and by other means, preventing us or a plumber from turning off your water in case of an emergency.

If you need your Ball Valve Box Lid repaired or have a damaged Water Meter Vault Lid, please call 410-313-4900 to schedule the repair at no charge.

If you can't determine where the Water Meter Vault / Ball Valve Box is located for your property, please give us a call at 410-313-4900. We will be happy to send a person to locate where your water comes in at your property.

Water Meter Maintenance Program

Water Meter Maintenance Program

In an effort to update our aging infrastructure the County announced in November 2019 that it will begin an eight year Water Meter Maintenance Program to replace aging radio transmitters on all Public water meters.

The top section of the water meter houses a low power radio transmitter that sends water usage data to meter reading trucks. This data is used to compute water bills. These devices use batteries that are coming to the end of their usefull life of ten years.

The Bureau of Utilities will be replacing the radio transmitter with new units that will be more reliable and have a twenty year life span.

If a resident's water meter is inside the home, Utilities staff will be setting up appointments to coordinate the replacement. This change-out should take less than twenty minutes to complete.

Water Meter Readings

Bureau of Utilities - Water Meter Readings

How does the County assure water meter readings and water bills are accurate ?

  • Most water meters in Howard County are read electronically via radio interface, thereby minimizing human error.
  • Water meter data is transferred electronically to the County's billing system, again minimizing human error.
  • These readings are automatically compared to the previous readings and/or the reading from the same time period in the prior year. If a substantial difference is found the bill is reviewed individually by a staff member.
  • If the staff member determines that the difference is significant and there is no mitigating reason for the discrepancy, a field investigation will ensue to identify and resolve the problem.
  • While it is extremely rare that the actual water meters over-register, the general cause is a malfunctioning transmitter.

We do our best to ensure all billed water meter readings are correct. If you feel your water bill is inaccurate give us a call at 410-313-2058, Monday through Friday, during the hours of 8am and 5pm.

Water Pressure Problems

Household Water Pressure Problems

Sometimes water pressure in a home begins to lessen or it may increase. If water flows properly from some taps, but not others, check the aerators ( screens ) on the affected taps. Aerators may be plugged with debris.* Similarly, the screens on laundry or dishwashers may be blocked.

Water Quality

Bureau of Utilities - Water Quality

The Bureau of Utilities conducts regular testing of various water conditions at over 150 locations throughout the system to ensure the highest quality water available for the citizens of Howard County.

Results are available in your 2020 Water Quality Report.

Water Resources Element Amendment

Bureau of Utilities - Water Resources Element

The Water Resources Element (WRE), an amendment to General Plan 2000, was adopted in April 2010. The WRE is intended to ensure the County has adequate land and water capacity for the treatment of wastewater and stormwater in order to support future growth.

The WRE contains the following policies and actions
to help the County manage water resources more sustainably to ensure that, as the County continues to grow, water resources will be conserved, protected, and restored to health.

The WRE is included in PlanHoward 2030 by reference and may be updated in the future to reflect evolving water and sewer demand and pollution reduction requirements.

Water Service Leak

Water Service Leaks

If you believe you have a water leak on your private property, it is recommended that you call the Bureau of Utilities at 410-313-4900 before calling a plumber. We can determine if the leak is on your side ( private ) or on the County's side ( public ).

This will determine whose responsibility it is to repair the leak. We can also turn the water off at the water valve near your property line to prevent further or potential water damage.

For less obvious water appearances, we can also test for fluoride and chlorine content to determine if water originates from the County's Water system - or if it comes from an underground spring or surface groundwater

History of the Howard County Bureau of Utilities

Prior to the formation of the Howard County Metropolitan Commission in 1943, the rural character of the county caused few water supply and sewer disposal problems.  Properties, through wells, springs and with septic systems, took care of their issues on an individual basis.  Except in some of the older towns where population density and the need for more water was becoming a problem, there was relatively little need of such public facilities.  

The Elkridge area experience an acute water shortage in  1931 and the problem was solved by setting up a special tax district through the state for the purpose of furnishing water to that area.  The Board of County Commissioners entered into an agreement with the City of Baltimore under which water mains were installed and the mains were operated, maintained and supplied by the Bureau of Water Supply of the City of Baltimore. In 1953 an agreement was negotiated with the Washing ton Suburban Sanitary Commission to supply additional water. 

In 1965 an act of the Maryland state legislature incorporated the existing five sub districts into one Howard County Metropolitan District and provided the means by whereby the Commission, with its 26 members began its own maintenance and operations group.  With its 16 members the Bureau of Water and Sewer group made all house connections, maintained and operated the pumping stations and treatment plants and began operations from the Church Road facility.

National Association of Counties Award

National Association of Counties Award
National Association of Counties Award

May 28, 2021

NACo CONTACT: Paul Guequierre, [email protected]

The Howard County Bureau of Utilities earns National Achievement Award for their Water Meter Replacement Program

WASHINGTON – The Howard County Bureau of Utilities Water Meter Replacement Program has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.

NACo is pleased to grant Howard County a 2021 Achievement Award for its program titled “Water meter replacement program” in the category of Community and Economic Development.

The replacement of 72,000 residential water meters which are no longer supported by the manufacturer and have reached the limits of their useful life has been a major undertaking.  Extensive planning, resources and coordination by county personnel has been required to ensure a successful outcome and to minimize impact to our customers.

Congratulations to everyone involved in developing this innovative program! Your hard work will yield positive results for Howard County residents.

NACo President Gary Moore said, “Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership. This year’s Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America.”

Nationally, awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received.


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