How To Find & Fix A Leak

The Facts on Leaks

Did you know that, in a year, water leaks in your home can waste enough water to fill a backyard swimming pool?  And if we added up all the water leaking in people's homes right now, it could fill a trillion gallons of milk jugs. 

Water-wasting leaks include running toilets, dripping faucets, and other leaking pipes around your home.  Most of these leaks can be fixed easily.  Fixing these leaks can save your family more than 10% on water bills. 

Finding Leaks

Locate the water meter at your house.  Usually, it's on the outside of the house in a box close to the street, or under a metal cover on the sidewalk that says "water".  Open the box and look at the current number on the meter.  Don't flush the toilet, run the faucet, or use any water for two hours.  Check the water meter again.  If the meter numbers have increased, you probably have a leak.

Walk through your house to listen for running toilets and dripping faucets.  Drips usually mean leaks. 

Leaking Toilets
To find out if your toilet is leaking, place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank at the back of the toilet (not the bowl).  If the food coloring shows up in the toilet bowl after 15-20 minutes without flushing, you have a leak.  A very common leak is caused by a faulty toilet flapper that just needs replacement.  If you can hear the water in your toilet making noise, even when no one flushed recently, you have a running toilet that could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day!
How to Replace Your Leaky Toilet Flapper

If you still hear the toilet running after replacing the flapper, try doing the test again, and leave the food coloring in overnight.  If you see coloring in the bowl, you may need a plumber's assistance. If the problem is not just a leak and you have replace a leaky toilet, look for one with the WaterSense label to save both water and money.  

Leaking Showerheads

Showerheads can also get old and leak, even when the water is not on.  A showerhead that drops just 10 drips in a minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year.  That’s enough water, if you saved it all up, to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher!  Most leaky showerheads can be fixed by making sure they’re screwed in tight.  Wrapping the showerhead in “pipe tape,” a special tape available at hardware stores, and using a wrench to tighten it will help.

How To Replace Your Showerhead

Leaking Faucets

Take a watch or clock with a second hand and time how often your faucet drips.  A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons in a year!  There are parts that hold your faucet together called washers and gaskets that can wear down and cause drips.  These parts usually can be replaced easily.  There’s also a little screen device called an “aerator” that can be screwed onto the tip of your faucet.  It adds air into the water stream so you can use less water without noticing a difference in water flow. 

How to Replace Your Faucet Aerator

Outdoor Leaks

Check your garden hose for leaks where it connects to your house. If it leaks when the hose is turned on, make sure the hose is screwed in tight.  If that doesn’t work, you may need to replace the nylon or rubber hose washer or wrap the “spigot,” where the end of the hose attaches to the wall, in pipe tape.  If you have a sprinkler system that waters your lawn, remember to check the system annually to make sure there aren't any broken sprinklers or leaks in the pipe.  


Fix A Leak Week, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, takes place in March.  It's a time when families are encouraged to check for water leaks and drips in bathrooms, kitchens, and yards at home.