A change in the way the Western Virginia Water Authority calculates sewer charges could save money for some residents of the Roanoke Valley.

The utility is implementing winter averaging, a program the water authority says will calculate "residential sewer flow charges based on water consumption during the winter when residential customers historically use the least amount of water."

Currently, sewer charges are tied to water consumption during the same billing period, but that doesn't account for customers who use water to irrigate their gardens, wash cars or fill swimming pools. That water doesn't end up in the sanitary sewer system.

Winter averaging will base sewer charges on a customer's water use during the months of January, February and March, when consumption is typically at its lowest.

Sarah Baumgardner is the spokesperson for the Western Virginia Water Authority. "For a customer who is looking at their water consumption right now during the winter months," Baumgardner told us, "if they practice using water wisely, and fix their leaks, don't do extensive irrigation, they can actually get a savings for the rest of the year."

All residential customers are included in the new program, so they do not need to call the water authority to enroll.