Water Leaks

This fact sheet will help you identify and locate water leaks in your home or business. Repairing water leaks is a great way to reduce the use of water that’s just being wasted.

It’s Only a Small Drip….Right?

Slow drips of water can add up quickly. A toilet that “keeps running” after you flush or a sink that drips after it is turned off can waste thousands of gallons of water a year.

If the drip is hot water, you are paying for wasted energy too. Fix leaks as soon as you find them. They won’t go away on their own.

How to Conserve Water

· Install a 1.6 gallon toilet
· Buy a water-efficient washing machine
· Repair leaks
· Reduce water use in the yard and garden by using plants appropriate for the local climate
· Wash full loads
· Minimize shower time
· Reduce faucet use

A “Running Toilet” Leak

Toilet leaks can range from small to large, constant or random. Many are even silent. Even a small silent leak can easily waste $50 in water costs. Large leaks can waste much more. Fortunately, most toilet leaks are relatively easy to fix. In a properly functioning toilet, no water should move from the tank to the bowl unless the toilet is being flushed. A leaking toilet loses water from the tank to the bowl without being flushed.

Checking for a leaky toilet:

1. Remove the tank lid. (Don’t worry, this water is clean
until it enters the bowl.)

2. Add some food coloring or a dye tablet to turn the water
a different color. Put the tank lid back on.

3. After about 30 minutes, look in the bowl. If you see colored water, you have a leak. If the water is clear, water is not leaking from the tank to the bowl.

If you do have a leak, there are a number of possible causes. If you remove the tank lid and can easily identify the cause, correct the problem and try your leak test again. Consider that “fixes” such as bending the float back to shape or adjusting how the rubber flapper falls often end up failing soon afterward. In most cases, you will simply want to replace the toilet flapper (the rubber thing at the bottom of the tank that keeps water in the tank) and/or the filling mechanism. These are available at hardware stores or home centers and are reasonably priced.

Leaking Faucets

A leaking faucet is frequently the result of a bad rubber washer. The washer on a sink is typically located under the handle. A washer is relatively easy to replace if you have the right tools. It does require shutting off the water under the faucet and removing the handle. Check local home centers or the Internet for instructions on how to repair faucet leaks. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the repair yourself, a plumber may be your best option. Remember, even if you have to pay a plumber to fix the leak, you will end up saving in the long run.

Checking Your Meter for Mysterious Water Leaks

1. Locate the water meter. In most homes, the water meter will be located in the basement near the water heater. The water meter is your indicator of water use. When water is not being used, nothing on the meter should be moving. Water meters have numbers or spinning dials which record usage. Most meters have a small “leak detector” arrow which senses the lower volumes of water that are common with leaks.

2. Turn off every water-using item. This means turning off all water inside and outside the house including showers and any appliance that uses water. If you have a sprinkler system, turn off the controller and manually shut off the two valves at the backflow assembly to isolate the irrigation system.

3. Check the meter. Watch the meter for a minute or more. If the leak detector dial or arrow is moving, you have a leak. In some cases it may move back and forth very slightly as water pressure fluctuates. If it moves forward continually, even at a slow rate, you have a leak. You may also want to check the meter reading at a set time, and then come back an hour later, after you know no water has been used. If it has a higher reading, there is a leak. If you suspect a toilet may be the culprit, turn the water off from the toilet shut-off valve (on the wall, under the toilet) and check the meter again.

4. If you still can’t locate the leak, find the shut-off valve. At the water meter you’ll find a water supply line coming into the house from the outside. Between it and the water meter is a shutoff valve. On the other side of the water meter is another shutoff valve. To shut off the water to the house, turn off the valve located BEFORE the water meter, on the supply side. Open the nearest faucet to make sure the water is turned all the way off.

5. Confirm the location of the leak. If the shut-off valve is closed and the meter has stopped, the leak is inside your home or building. If you need help with repairs, or in locating the leak, call a plumber.