How to Detect a Water Leak

Use Your Water Meter

Your water meter can be a valuable tool in detecting water leaks in and around your home. If you are not familiar with reading water meters, please read How to Read Your Water Meter before continuing.

  1. Make sure no water is running.
  2. Turn off all faucets and water-consuming appliances - including your automatic ice maker and your evaporative cooler.
  3. Read your water meter. Write down the current reading including tenths of a cubic foot or mark your meter with a felt pen over the needle.
  4. Read the meter again after 10 to 15 minutes. If the meter reading has changed, or the needle has moved, you have a leak.


Are water leaks costing you money? Periodically you should:

  • Check all faucets for drips. Replace worn and leaking washers, gaskets, pipes, or defective fixtures.
  • Check for leaks on outside faucets, and make sure the valve closes properly.
  • Check toilets for leaks - they are the most common cause of high bills! Check the overflow of the tank to make sure no water is running over (float level may be set too high). The flapper valve in the bottom of the tank may also be a source of a possible leak. To check for a flapper valve leak, put a small amount of food coloring in the toilet tank after it has filled. Do not flush the toilet for at least an hour, or overnight if possible. If the food coloring shows up in the bowl without flushing, you may have a leaking flapper or plunger ball valve. Note: Kool-Aid also works as a coloring agent.

Water Loss

  • Leaking Toilet at 1/2 gallon per minute (GPM) equals 21,600 gallons per month
  • Drip Irrigation at 1 GPM equals 43,200 gallons per month
  • Watering Garden for 2 hours at 5 GPM equals 18,000 gallons per month
  • Watering Garden for 2 hours at 10 GPM equals 36,000 gallons per month
  • Unattended Water Hose for 1 night at 10 GPM equals 5,400 gallons
  • Broken Services Line
    • 1 night at 15 GPM equals 8,100 gallons
    • 1 day at 15 GPM equals 21,600 gallons
    • 1 week at 15 GPM equals 151,200 gallons
    • 1 month at 15 GPM equals 648,000 gallons
  • Stuck Ice Maker at 2 GPM equals 86,400 gallons per month
  • Stuck Check Valve in Washing Machine - 30 minutes equals 240 gallons
  • Stuck Float Valve in Watering Trough at 5 GPM equals 216,000 gallons per month

Typical Uses

  • 1 Bath equals 42 gallons
  • 1 Shower equals 17 gallons
  • Wash 1 Load of Clothes equals 45 gallons
  • Flush Toilet equals 3 gallons

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