What Could Cause an Unusually High Water Bill in Wellington?

Leaking hose connection

Water bills can be like puzzles, with every drop contributing to the larger picture. If you’ve recently experienced a spike in your water bill in Wellington, you’re not alone. All plumbers in Wellington get this question a lot.

Unexpected spikes in water bills can be attributed to a variety of internal and external plumbing issues, human factors, meter inaccuracies, natural events, neighbourhood influences, and a lack of preventative measures. Proactive steps, regular inspections, and community awareness are vital to safeguard against unforeseen water consumption and associated costs.

What Could Cause an Unusually High Water Bill in Wellington?

  1. Top Internal Plumbing Issues That Could Elevate Your Water Bill
  2. External Plumbing Problems: Hidden Water Bill Offenders
  3. Human Factors: The Overlooked Contributors to Your Surging Water Bill
  4. Meter Issues: When Your Water Bill’s Culprit Isn’t Always Obvious
  5. External Factors: Unforeseen Influences on Your Water Bill
  6. Neighbourhood and Community Factors: The Collective Impact on Your Water Bill
  7. Natural Factors: Mother Nature’s Role in Your Water Bill
  8. Preventative Measures: Proactive Steps to Safeguard Your Water Bill


Top Internal Plumbing Issues That Could Elevate Your Water Bill

Internal plumbing problems can be sneaky, often lurking out of sight but heavily Impacting your monthly water bill. Let’s break down the top internal plumbing culprits:


Leaky Taps

  • Symptoms: Dripping taps, even when tightly turned off.
  • Impact: A single dripping tap can waste over 3,000 litres a year.
  • Solution: Typically, a worn-out washer or O-ring is to blame. Replace the faulty component to stem the flow.

Running Toilets

  • Symptoms: Continuous water flow noise, and frequent refilling sounds.
  • Impact: A running toilet can waste up to 1000 litres of water a day.
  • Solution: Check the valve, float ball, or chain. Often, a simple adjustment or replacement can fix the issue.

Leaking Pipes

  • Symptoms: Damp patches on walls or ceilings, a musty smell, mould growth.
  • Impact: Even a small leak can lead to significant water waste and structural damage over time.
  • Solution: Find the source of the leak and replace or repair the faulty section. Consider hiring a professional if the leak’s location is elusive.

Faulty Water Heater

  • Symptoms: Pooled water around the heater, fluctuating water temperatures.
  • Impact: A leaky water heater doesn’t just waste water; it also consumes extra energy.
  • Solution: Check the heater’s valves and connections. In some cases, you might need to replace the entire unit.

Malfunctioning Appliances

  • Symptoms: Water pooling under dishwashers or washing machines, appliances not filling or draining correctly.
  • Impact: Faulty appliances can leak significant amounts of water and also strain the appliance itself.
  • Solution: Inspect hoses and connections. For more intricate issues, refer to the appliance manual or call a technician.

Poorly Sealed Connections

  • Symptoms: Small drips or moisture around pipe connections, especially under sinks.
  • Impact: Over time, these minor leaks can add up and damage cabinetry or flooring.
  • Solution: Tighten connections or replace worn-out sealants.

Over-pressurized Pipes

  • Symptoms: Loud banging noises in pipes, burst pipes or frequent leaks.
  • Impact: High pressure can strain your plumbing system and lead to damage.
  • Solution: Install or adjust a pressure-reducing valve.

Old Pipelines

  • Symptoms: Frequent clogs, reduced water flow, discoloured water.
  • Impact: Older pipes can corrode, leak, and Impact water quality.
  • Solution: If persistent issues arise, consider repiping sections of your home.

Clogged Drains

  • Symptoms: Slow-draining sinks or showers, gurgling sounds.
  • Impact: While not a direct cause of increased water usage, clogs can lead to other plumbing problems if not addressed.
  • Solution: Use a plunger or a natural drain cleaner. For stubborn drain issues, seek professional assistance.

Keeping an eye out for these common internal plumbing issues can help you maintain a steady and reasonable water bill. Regular checks and prompt action at the first sign of a problem can save both water and money in the long run.


External Plumbing Problems: Hidden Water Bill Offenders

Plumbing issues aren’t always confined to the four walls of your home. External problems, though sometimes overlooked, can equally affect your water bill. Here’s a detailed look into these often-elusive culprits:


Service Line Leaks

  • Symptoms: Wet patches in your yard, reduced water pressure in the home.
  • Impact: Significant water wastage and potential damage to landscaping or foundation.
  • Solution: Contact a plumbing professional to locate and repair the leak.

Landscape Irrigation Issues

  • Symptoms: Puddles or overly saturated areas in the garden, sprinkler heads not functioning correctly.
  • Impact: Over-irrigation can not only hike up your bill but also harm your plants.
  • Solution: Check for broken sprinkler heads, adjust the watering schedule, and inspect for leaks in the system.

Unmetered Sources

  • Symptoms: Discrepancy between perceived water use and bill.
  • Impact: Paying for water that’s not being tracked.
  • Solution: Ensure all connections are metered correctly; consult with your water supplier.

Damaged Hose Taps

  • Symptoms: Leaks around outdoor taps, especially when connected to a hose.
  • Impact: Small drips can accumulate over time, leading to increased bills.
  • Solution: Replace worn-out washers or the entire tap if necessary.

Main Sewer Line Blockages

  • Symptoms: Multiple drains clogging simultaneously, foul odours around the property.
  • Impact: Backup of sewage can lead to health hazards and potential fines.
  • Solution: Seek immediate professional help; they might use cameras to inspect and clear blockages.

Swimming Pool Leaks

  • Symptoms: Water level consistently dropping faster than expected, and wet spots around the pool.
  • Impact: A 1/8-inch crack can result in the loss of hundreds of gallons a day.
  • Solution: Regular pool maintenance, patching cracks, and checking the filtration system.

Gutter and Downspout Flow Issues

  • Symptoms: Overflowing gutters, water pooling at the foundation.
  • Impact: This can lead to foundation issues, mould growth, and damage to the home’s exterior.
  • Solution: Clean gutters regularly, and ensure downspouts direct water away from the foundation.

Stormwater System Issues

  • Symptoms: Flooding during rains, drains not clearing water as they should.
  • Impact: Property damage and potential mixing of stormwater with sewage.
  • Solution: Regular maintenance of stormwater drains, clearing blockages, and checking for structural issues.

Tree Root Intrusions

  • Symptoms: Slow-flowing drains, green patches in the yard even during dry spells.
  • Impact: Tree roots can break and infiltrate pipes, causing blockages and leaks.
  • Solution: Periodic inspection of large trees near plumbing lines, professional removal of roots, and possible pipe repair or replacement.

Old or Corroded Exterior Pipes

  • Symptoms: Frequent leaks and visible rust on exposed pipes.
  • Impact: Older pipes are prone to breakage and inefficient water transport.
  • Solution: Professional inspection and potential replacement with modern, durable piping.

External plumbing issues, though often out of sight, should never be out of mind. By regularly inspecting your property’s external plumbing systems and promptly addressing any issues, you can keep that water bill in check and protect your property from potential water damage.


Human Factors: The Overlooked Contributors to Your Surging Water Bill

Often, when grappling with an unusually high water bill, the first instinct is to look for mechanical or systemic faults. Yet, quite frequently, our own habits and activities play a significant role. Let’s unravel the human influences that can cause a surge in water consumption:


Increased Household Occupancy

  • Symptoms: More showers, dishes, laundry, and general water usage.
  • Impact: Every additional person can add to the household’s daily water footprint.
  • Solution: Adopt water-saving habits and inform guests about them too.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Symptoms: Taking up gardening, new water-consuming hobbies, or increased at-home work.
  • Impact: New activities can inadvertently lead to increased water consumption.
  • Solution: Stay mindful of water usage and seek out water-efficient methods for new hobbies or tasks.

Overwatering Gardens

  • Symptoms: Soggy gardens, runoff into sidewalks or streets.
  • Impact: Plants get more water than they need, and a significant amount is wasted.
  • Solution: Learn about the specific water needs of your plants and adjust watering schedules accordingly.

Frequent Car Washing at Home

  • Symptoms: Using a hose multiple times a week to wash vehicles.
  • Impact: A hose can use up to 100 gallons of water in just 10 minutes.
  • Solution: Use a bucket to wash cars or visit a water-efficient commercial car wash.

Recreational Water Use

  • Symptoms: Regular use of water toys, fountains, or filling up inflatable pools.
  • Impact: Recreational items can consume large amounts of water in short durations.
  • Solution: Use such items sparingly and always monitor the amount of water used.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

  • Symptoms: Ignoring small leaks, not checking external systems, avoiding regular plumbing check-ups.
  • Impact: Small issues can compound over time, leading to bigger problems.
  • Solution: Schedule regular maintenance checks and be proactive about addressing minor issues.

Unmonitored Water Usage

  • Symptoms: Not keeping track of monthly water consumption.
  • Impact: Without monitoring, excessive usage can go unnoticed.
  • Solution: Regularly check water bills and install water monitoring systems if available.

Excessive Bathing

  • Symptoms: Taking long showers or filling bathtubs to the brim.
  • Impact: Showers can use 9+ litres of water per minute.
  • Solution: Reduce shower times, and when using a bathtub, only fill it as much as needed.

Inefficient Laundry and Dishwashing Habits

  • Symptoms: Running machines without full loads.
  • Impact: Partial loads can consume almost as much water as full loads with some machines.
  • Solution: Wait until you have a full load before running the machine, or use the appropriate size selection on modern machines.

It’s essential to realize that our daily activities, no matter how insignificant they might seem, can have a cumulative effect on our water consumption. By making small adjustments to our habits and being more water-aware, we can play an active role in reducing our monthly bills and conserving this precious resource.


Meter Issues: When Your Water Bill’s Culprit Isn’t Always Obvious

Water meters are designed to measure the amount of water consumed by a household or establishment accurately. But, like any other mechanical or digital device, they can sometimes face problems. Here’s a listicle that delves into meter-related issues that can impact your water bill:


Stuck Meter Dial

  • Symptoms: Constant readings over multiple billing cycles, despite varied water usage.
  • Impact: You may be billed inaccurately based on estimated or previous consumption.
  • Solution: Request a meter inspection from your water service provider.

Meter Misreading

  • Symptoms: Sudden unexplained spike or drop in your water bill without any corresponding change in your water usage habits.
  • Impact: You could be overcharged or undercharged for your actual consumption.
  • Solution: Manually note down readings and compare with your bill. If discrepancies arise, inform your water company.

Leaky Meter

  • Symptoms: Visible water pooling around the meter or moisture inside the meter casing.
  • Impact: Wasted water and potential damage to surrounding areas.
  • Solution: Report to the water utility company for repair or replacement.

Old or Outdated Meters

  • Symptoms: Inconsistent readings or erratic behaviour from older, worn-out meters.
  • Impact: Older meters might not measure water usage as accurately as modern ones.
  • Solution: Request a meter upgrade or replacement from your utility provider.

Faulty Meter Register

  • Symptoms: Display errors, flickering numbers, or blank screens on digital meters.
  • Impact: Digital errors can translate to incorrect billing.
  • Solution: Notify the water company and request an inspection or replacement.

Incorrect Meter Size

  • Symptoms: Disproportionate billing despite regular water usage, especially after a recent meter replacement.
  • Impact: Meters that are too large or too small can give inaccurate readings for your household’s flow rate.
  • Solution: Consult with your water provider to ensure you have the right meter size for your property.

Magnetic Interference

  • Symptoms: For meters with electronic components, erratic readings without any evident reason.
  • Impact: External magnetic fields can interfere with meter readings.
  • Solution: Ensure that there are no sources of magnetic interference near your meter. If problems persist, consult your utility company.

Meter Tampering

  • Symptoms: Signs of physical damage, seals appearing broken or tampered with.
  • Impact: Besides potential inaccuracies in readings, tampering can lead to penalties or legal actions.
  • Solution: Report any suspicious signs to your water company immediately. Avoid unauthorized interventions.

Shared Metering

  • Symptoms: Your bill seems to account for more water usage than you remember consuming.
  • Impact: In some multi-unit properties, a single meter might measure consumption for multiple units, leading to shared bills.
  • Solution: Check with your property management or water company to clarify the billing arrangement. Consider installing individual meters if possible.

Faulty Remote Reading Device

  • Symptoms: Inaccurate bills, especially when manual readings seem correct, but the billed amount is off.
  • Impact: The device that remotely sends your meter’s reading to the utility might malfunction.
  • Solution: Notify your water provider and request a check or replacement of the remote reading device.


Water meters are the bridge between your water consumption and the bill you receive. It’s essential to ensure they function correctly. If you suspect a meter-related problem, always reach out to your utility provider for guidance, as unauthorized tampering could lead to legal complications.


External Factors: Unforeseen Influences on Your Water Bill

While most causes for an unusual water bill can often be traced back to our homes and habits, sometimes external factors beyond our control play a significant role. Here’s a deep dive into some of these unexpected culprits:


Rate Increases

  • Symptoms: A higher bill without a noticeable increase in your water usage.
  • Impact: Utility companies might increase rates due to infrastructure upgrades, increased sourcing costs, or other external factors.
  • Solution: Stay updated with announcements from your water provider. Budget for the increased rates or consider water-saving strategies.

Seasonal Variations

  • Symptoms: Fluctuating bills at specific times of the year.
  • Impact: Summer often means more water for gardening, pools, and other activities, while winter might bring its own set of challenges.
  • Solution: Be water-wise during high usage seasons and insulate pipes during winter to prevent bursts.

Community Water Restrictions

  • Symptoms: Announcements or notices about limited water usage.
  • Impact: Droughts or other water supply challenges might lead to restrictions and potential surcharges for overuse.
  • Solution: Adhere to restrictions and implement water-saving techniques. Consider harvesting rainwater or using greywater systems.

Local Construction or Infrastructure Work

  • Symptoms: Visible construction work in your neighbourhood or disturbances in the regular water supply.
  • Impact: Damages to local pipes or connections can cause leaks or affect water pressure.
  • Solution: Report any disturbances to your water provider. Regularly check your property for any new leaks after nearby construction.

Billing Errors

  • Symptoms: Discrepancies between your meter reading and the billed amount.
  • Impact: Mistakes in manual entry or software errors can lead to incorrect billing.
  • Solution: Regularly check your meter readings and compare them with your bill. Report discrepancies to your water provider.

Changes in Water Source

  • Symptoms: Notices about shifts in community water sourcing or changes in water taste or appearance.
  • Impact: Switching sources might lead to changes in water quality or cost structures.
  • Solution: Engage with your utility provider to understand the implications and any required actions on your end.

Community Growth

  • Symptoms: A surge in population or housing in your area.
  • Impact: Increased demand might strain local water supplies, leading to potential rate hikes.
  • Solution: Keep an eye on local developments and adapt to any changes in water supply or costs.

Policy Changes

  • Symptoms: Announcements or notifications about changes in billing cycles or water-related policies.
  • Impact: Alterations in how water is billed or metered can affect your monthly charges.
  • Solution: Stay updated with communications from your water utility and adjust your budget or usage accordingly.

Economic Fluctuations

  • Symptoms: Broader economic challenges leading to increased utility costs.
  • Impact: Inflation, economic downturns, or other fiscal pressures can indirectly Impact water rates.
  • Solution: Budget wisely and consider long-term water-saving installations, like rainwater harvesting systems or efficient appliances.

Natural Disasters

  • Symptoms: Recent incidents of floods, earthquakes, or other natural calamities.
  • Impact: Natural disasters can damage infrastructure, leading to leaks or supply interruptions.
  • Solution: Post-disaster, check your property for damages and consult with your utility provider for any service-related updates.


Understanding the broader picture can help make sense of unexpected changes in your water bill. By staying informed and proactive, you can navigate these external challenges and manage your water usage more effectively.


Neighbourhood and Community Factors: The Collective Impact on Your Water Bill

Your immediate neighbourhood and the broader community can play a pivotal role in influencing water consumption and consequently, your water bill. Let’s delve into the array of neighbourhood and community-driven factors:


Shared Water Lines

  • Symptoms: A sudden increase in your water bill, especially if you live in multi-unit dwellings or shared complexes.
  • Impact: Leaks or overuse by a neighbour can affect the entire line if there’s a shared connection.
  • Solution: Regularly check shared systems and communicate with neighbours about any concerns or unusual spikes.

Neighbourhood Leaks

  • Symptoms: Wet spots or pooling in community areas or adjacent properties.
  • Impact: Large leaks can affect the community’s overall water pressure and might indirectly impact your bill.
  • Solution: Report noticeable leaks to the local water authority or neighbourhood association.

Community Facilities Overuse

  • Symptoms: Increased usage of community pools, clubhouses, or parks.
  • Impact: High usage of community facilities can sometimes result in additional charges or assessments to residents.
  • Solution: Encourage water conservation initiatives within community facilities.

Neighbourhood Water Theft

  • Symptoms: Witnessing unauthorised connections or suspicious activities around water sources.
  • Impact: Theft or unauthorised usage can strain the community’s supply and potentially increase costs.
  • Solution: Report any suspicious activities to local authorities or neighbourhood watch groups.

Landscaping and Sprinkler Systems

  • Symptoms: Frequent watering of community parks, gardens, or shared spaces.
  • Impact: Overwatering or poorly timed sprinklers can lead to a significant waste of water.
  • Solution: Advocate for water-efficient landscaping and smart sprinkler systems in shared spaces.

Community Projects and Clean-ups

  • Symptoms: Neighbourhood-wide initiatives that require substantial water use.
  • Impact: Projects like street cleaning or community garden upgrades can cause short-term spikes in water usage.
  • Solution: Engage in community planning to ensure water-efficient practices are in place.

Awareness and Education Levels

  • Symptoms: Lack of community-driven conservation efforts or awareness campaigns.
  • Impact: When residents aren’t educated about water-saving, overall consumption can remain high.
  • Solution: Organize or participate in awareness campaigns and workshops on water conservation.

Infrastructure Age and Maintenance

  • Symptoms: Older neighbourhoods with outdated plumbing systems.
  • Impact: Aging infrastructure can be more susceptible to leaks or inefficiencies.
  • Solution: Advocate for community-wide infrastructure audits and necessary upgrades.

Community-wide Pressure Changes

  • Symptoms: Sudden drop or surge in water pressure across multiple homes.
  • Impact: Fluctuations can indicate broader system issues, potentially affecting individual bills.
  • Solution: Coordinate with neighbours to report and address pressure issues with the water provider.

Cultural or Social Events

  • Symptoms: Community festivals, gatherings, or events requiring water.
  • Impact: Large-scale events can increase water usage temporarily, especially if hosted in residential areas.
  • Solution: Plan for water-efficient practices during events and ensure resources are used judiciously.


It’s worth noting that while individual efforts in water conservation are crucial, community-wide initiatives can amplify the Impact By staying connected with your neighbourhood and actively participating in community discussions, you can ensure a collective effort towards water conservation and efficient usage.


Natural Factors: Mother Nature’s Role in Your Water Bill

Nature has an undeniable impact on nearly every aspect of our lives, including our water consumption. Here’s an exploration of how various natural phenomena can shape your water bill:



  • Symptoms: Decreased rainfall, parched landscapes, and water body levels dropping.
  • Impact: Reduced water supply can lead to restrictions, potential surcharges for overuse, or increased water rates.
  • Solution: Adopt water-saving measures, like rainwater harvesting or drought-resistant landscaping.

Heavy Rainfall or Storms

  • Symptoms: Sudden influx of water, flooding in areas.
  • Impact: Excess water can lead to overflow, drainage issues, or even potential contamination of water supplies.
  • Solution: Check your property for damage post-storm and ensure proper drainage to prevent standing water.

Ground Shifting

  • Symptoms: Movement in the Earth’s crust, often after earthquakes.
  • Impact: Can cause breaks or cracks in water lines, leading to leaks or water outages.
  • Solution: After any significant ground movement, inspect property and plumbing for potential damages.

Soil Composition

  • Symptoms: Areas with expansive clay soils.
  • Impact: Soil expansion or contraction with moisture changes can exert pressure on underground pipes, leading to potential breaks.
  • Solution: Ensure pipes are properly laid with protection against soil-induced stress.

Tree Root Intrusion

  • Symptoms: Large trees nearby water lines.
  • Impact: Roots can grow towards and into water lines, causing blockages or breaks.
  • Solution: Regularly inspect lines in tree-heavy areas and consider root barriers or rerouting lines as preventative measures.

Temperature Extremes

  • Symptoms: Very hot or freezing conditions.
  • Impact: High temperatures can increase evaporation from open water sources while freezing conditions can cause pipes to burst.
  • Solution: Insulate pipes during cold months and consider shade or covers for water storage in hot climates.

Natural Water Table Fluctuations

  • Symptoms: Changes in the level of underground water in certain areas.
  • Impact: Can affect well water levels, potentially reducing the water supply for those reliant on wells.
  • Solution: Monitor well levels and consider supplementary or alternative water sources during low periods.

Animal Interactions

  • Symptoms: Presence of burrowing animals or indications of animal activity near water infrastructure.
  • Impact: Animals can damage or disrupt water lines, leading to leaks.
  • Solution: Implement protective measures, like mesh or barriers, and regularly inspect areas with high animal activity.

Algal Blooms in Water Sources

  • Symptoms: Greenish discolouration in water bodies.
  • Impact: Can lead to water contamination, making it unsafe for consumption without treatment, potentially increasing purification costs.
  • Solution: Stay updated on local water quality reports and ensure proper filtration for home water sources.


  • Symptoms: Nearby forested areas catching fire.
  • Impact: Fires can damage infrastructure and contaminate water sources with debris and ash.
  • Solution: Check plumbing post-fire, and stay updated on water quality advisories.


Natural factors can be unpredictable, but understanding their potential impacts allows us to be better prepared. While some of these situations might be rare, depending on your region, it’s always a good idea to be aware and have mitigation or response strategies in place.


Preventative Measures: Proactive Steps to Safeguard Your Water Bill

Ensuring you don’t face unexpected hikes in your water bill is as much about proactivity as it is about reactive measures. Here are some effective preventative steps to safeguard against unanticipated water usage:


Regular Inspections

  • Details: Schedule regular checks of your entire plumbing system.
  • Benefits: Early detection of minor issues before they become significant problems, such as small leaks or corrosion.

Install Water-Saving Appliances

  • Details: Use Energy Star-rated washers, low-flow toilets, and water-efficient dishwashers.
  • Benefits: Reduced water consumption without compromising functionality.

Water Meter Monitoring

  • Details: Check your water meter regularly.
  • Benefits: Immediate detection of unusual spikes in consumption, allowing for early investigation.

Insulate Pipes

  • Details: Wrap pipes in insulation, especially those in unheated areas.
  • Benefits: Prevents freezing in cold weather, reducing the risk of burst pipes.

Garden Wisely

  • Details: Opt for drought-resistant plants and implement drip irrigation systems.
  • Benefits: Reduces the amount of water wasted in gardening, while maintaining a lush landscape.

Install a Rainwater Harvesting System

  • Details: Set up rain barrels or more extensive collection systems.
  • Benefits: Provides an alternative water source, easing the demand on the main supply.

Regular Drain Cleaning

  • Details: Clean and maintain drains to prevent blockages.
  • Benefits: Avoids back-ups and potential water wastage.

Fit Taps with Aerators

  • Details: Install aerators on taps to mix air with the flow.
  • Benefits: Maintains water pressure while using less water.

Water Timers and Sensors

  • Details: Use automated systems for gardens or lawns.
  • Benefits: Ensures optimal watering without human error leading to overuse.

Educate the Household

  • Details: Ensure all family members or housemates are aware of the importance of water conservation.
  • Benefits: Cultivates a collective effort to save water, reducing inadvertent wastage.

Check Toilets

  • Details: Regularly inspect your toilet mechanisms tank for wear or mineral deposits.
  • Benefits: Prevents slow leaks that might go unnoticed but can waste significant amounts of water.

Install a Water Softener

  • Details: Useful if you have hard water, which can cause mineral build-up and damage pipes and appliances.
  • Benefits: Prolong the life of your plumbing system and appliances.

Pressure Reducing Valves

  • Details: If your water pressure is too high, consider installing a pressure-reducing valve.
  • Benefits: Reduces strain on your pipes and prevents potential leaks or bursts.

Install Leak Detectors

  • Details: Modern leak detectors can be installed near appliances or main lines and alert you to leaks.
  • Benefits: Early warning system for any unexpected water discharge.


Taking preventative measures can significantly reduce the chances of facing an unexpectedly high water bill. By integrating these habits and tools into your household routine, you not only protect your pocketbook but also contribute to broader water conservation efforts.



In conclusion, a spike in your water bill isn’t just a financial conundrum but a call to investigate and address potential issues. By understanding the various causes and being proactive in maintenance, you can ensure that your water usage and bills remain balanced.

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