How to Detect a Leak


The Facts on Leaks from the EPA

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  • Leaks can account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year, which is enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.
  • The amount of water leaked from U.S. homes could exceed more than 1 trillion gallons per year. That’s equivalent to the annual water use of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined.
  • Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.
  • Common types of leaks found in the home include leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. All are easily correctable.
  • Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners more than 10 percent on their water bills.
  • Keep your home leak-free by repairing dripping faucets, toilet valves, and showerheads. In most cases, fixture replacement parts don’t require a major investment and can be installed by do-it-yourselfers.
  • The vast majority of leaks can be eliminated after retrofitting a household with new WaterSense labeled fixtures and other high-efficiency appliances.

Faucets and Showerheads:

  • A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. A home with WaterSense labeled toilets could use that water to flush for six months!
  • Leaky faucets can be reduced by checking faucet washers and gaskets for wear and replacing them if necessary. If you are replacing a faucet, look for the WaterSense label.
  • A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year. That’s enough water to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher.
  • Most leaky showerheads can be fixed by ensuring a tight connection using pipe tape and a wrench.


  • If your toilet is running constantly, you could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day.
  • If your toilet is leaking, the cause is most often an old, faulty toilet flapper. Over time, this inexpensive rubber part decays, or minerals build up on it. It’s usually best to replace the whole rubber flapper—a relatively easy, inexpensive do-it-yourself project that pays for itself in no time.
  • If you do need to replace the entire toilet, look for a WaterSense labeled model. If a family of four replaces its older, inefficient toilets with new WaterSense labeled ones, it could save more than 16,000 gallons per year. Retrofitting the house could save the family approximately $2,000 in water and wastewater bills over the lifetime of the toilets.


  • An irrigation system should be checked each spring before use to make sure it was not damaged by frost or freezing.
  • An irrigation system with pressure set at 60 pounds per square inch that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  • To ensure that your in-ground irrigation system is not leaking water, consult with a WaterSense irrigation partner who has passed a certification program focused on water efficiency; look for a WaterSense irrigation partner.
  • Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.


Leak Detection:


  • A good method to check for leaks is to examine your winter water usage. It’s likely that a family of four has a serious leak problem if its winter water use exceeds 12,000 gallons per month.
  • Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak.
  • One way to find out if you have a toilet leak is to place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. Make sure to flush immediately after this experiment to avoid staining the tank.

Specific steps

Step 1. Turn all water-using appliances off so that no water is being used. This means turning off all water inside and outside the house including showers, sinks, washing machines and any appliance that uses water, including the irrigation system.

Step 2. As we noted in “How to Read Your Meter,” take the lid off to the meter box and lift the protective cover. Look at the red disk which is commonly called a “leak detector.” If it is spinning, even if very slowly, you have a leak. You have to now find out where your leak is.

Step. 3. Locate the main shut-off valve to the house. The shutoff can be in the crawl space or in a valve box near your foundation.  Turn off the valve.

Step 4:  Go back to the meter box.  Watch the “leak detector.”  If it is moving, then you have a leak between the meter and your house.  Finding that leak will take specific testing equipment. Please call Mike at 627-8548 and Mike will give you the names of some companies that have the equipment to do the testing.

Step 5.   If the leak detector is NOT moving now that you have turned off the water to the house, that means the leak is in the house or in your irrigation or garden hose faucets, frost free yard hydrant.  Now, after turning the water back on, you must check each toilet, washing machine, water faucet, valve (hot and cold), for any leak.  Look for signs of wet walls or outside, ground that is wet but shouldn’t be.

Step 6. If you can’t find a leak in that search, you may have to hire a plumber to go under the house and look for leaking pipes. Or, have him try to determine if there is a leak in your frost-free valves or irrigation system.

Most of the time you can locate the leak by yourself, repair it and save yourself a lot of money.  But, if you can’t and you have determined you have a leak call us for suggestions of service people who can help you.

Syringa Water District does NOT service water lines on the house side of the meter.