Paying utility bills in China: Water

Photo by Luis nunes alberto

There are various ways to pay your water bill – here’s a look at the options, as well as how to decipher the information on the bill itself. 


The basic information

Before you sign your contract, make sure to ask your landlord how the water bill should be paid, and how often.

Usually, you’ll know it’s time to pay the bill when a water company representative will knock at the door to check your water meter. They may give you a bill there and then, or they may return later to deliver your bill. If you’re at home when they visit, you can pay on the spot. If you’re not at home, they’ll stick the bill to your door. 

The bill will look something like that in the image below. See the text in red for a guide to what each item means, but the main things you should look for are the address (make sure it’s yours), the total, and the deadline for payment.



How to pay

If your apartment doesn’t have a water card (a credit-card-sized ‘top up card’), you can pay at home when the water company representative visits. Remember to ask for a receipt with the company stamp on it.

If you have a water card, or are not at home when the company representative visits, you can pay via these methods:

  1. Going directly to the water company’s customer service hall – check for the nearest location to your home.
  2. Ask at your apartment’s property management (wu ye) office company. This may not be an option for some, however.
  3. Going to a bank. But check which banks you may pay the bill at first; not all banks offer water payments, and some of those that do only allow their customers to pay bills, not customers of other banks.
  4. Your bank may offer a service whereby they will deal with bills on your behalf, deducting money from your account directly as and when necessary. Ask a Chinese-speaking friend to help you enquire about this with your bank.
  5. E-banking. Again, this will be easier if you ask a Chinese-speaking friend to help.


Failure to pay

If you fail to pay the bill on time, the water company will not necessarily penalize you immediately. However, they may apply a fine based on the following formula: standard water bill charge x (0.1 percent x days overdue) = total fine.

Your water may also be cut off if you don’t pay your bill. If this happens, you should pay the bill as soon as possible. Your service will be reactivated almost instantaneously.


Useful Chinese words and phrases

缴费               jiǎofèi                   bill paying
缴水费            jiǎo shuǐ fèi           pay water bill
自助缴费         zìzhù jiǎofèi          self-service payment
滞纳金            zhìnàjīn                overdue fine


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