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Ten Thousand Gallons

2011 March 14

By Veronica Blette

“Uh-oh, that can’t be good,” I thought as I entered my house to hear the sound of running water. I went upstairs to find that the flapper on my toilet had become stuck in the open position, which led to its earnest, yet futile, efforts to fill the bowl all day long. Yes, while I spent my day in the office trying to advance a nationwide ethic of water efficiency, water was running down my drain. My water bill for the month almost doubled as a result of that one day of wasted toilet filling.

So, what’s the connection with 10,000 gallons? That’s how much water we waste in our houses each year through leaks! Across the country, easy-to-fix household leaks add up to more than one trillion gallons of water lost annually, robbing homeowners of 12 percent of their water bill.

Less than one percent of the Earth’s water is available for human use, and managing water is a growing concern in the United States. Using water more efficiently and avoiding waste helps maintain supplies at safe levels now and for future generations.

That’s why we are encouraging homeowners to find and fix leaks during the third annual Fix a Leak Week, March 14 – 20, 2011. Be for water and start saving today with three simple steps:

1. Check

First, check your home for leaks. You can detect silent toilet leaks, a common water-wasting culprit, by adding food coloring to the toilet tank and waiting 10 minutes before flushing. If color appears in the bowl, your toilet has a leak.

2. Twist

Give leaking faucet and showerhead connections a firm twist to ensure that pipe connections are sealed tight. For additional savings, twist WaterSense labeled aerators onto bathroom faucets to use 30 percent less water without noticing a difference in flow.

3 .Replace

If you just can’t nip that drip, it may be time to replace the fixture. Look for WaterSense labeled models, which use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well as or better than standard models.

Don’t find yourself in my shoes. Take these simple steps and reduce the potential for leaks lurking in your life. Want to do more? Join my team and thousands of your neighbors by supporting the We’re for Water campaign. Visit and take the I’m for Water pledge and “like” WaterSense on Facebook.

About the author: Veronica Blette leads EPA’s WaterSense program. Veronica has been with the Agency for more than thirteen years and, going forward, will always make sure the toilet is not running before she goes to work.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. sLpEeNaA permalink
    March 14, 2011

    I really appreciate your post regarding this issue. As a college student, it’s hard enough to go to school but at the same time working to just get by with paying the bills gets even trickier. My roommate and I lived in a 30-40 year old apartment complex (I’ll not use the name). Luckily, the only bill we paid was the electric, since management took care of the rest of the bills, including water. Second month of us living rolled around and we’ve submitted 3 maintenance requests to fix our 2 toilets. Our toilets leaked nonstop (not only was it annoying to sleep to, but we also realized how much water was being wasted!) The maintenance man would come out, tweak something with the fixture and leave without truly fixing the problem, thus forcing us once again to put in another work order. October rolled around and my roommate and I received a notice on our door stating that we were “frivolously wasting water” and our apartment water use was 5x of that of other apartments. WE were also told that we would be expected to cover all water costs from now on. Luckily we went to the school’s legal advising services, who worked with our landlord in fixing the problem. The landlord ended up not only replacing both toilets, but also writing us a formal letter of apology for the threat and attempt to make us pay all water charges.

    I would think that a sensible person would understand that if there is work order put in for a leaky faucet or a running toilet that’s never truly fixed, the water bill will increase. However, I don’t believe that my management ever realized the connection to this day.

    Once again, thank you for this post! I believe I’ll forward it to my old landlord!

  2. permalink
    March 14, 2011

    I can definitely relate to your post about the running toilet. My sister lives upstairs from me and on a couple of occasions I have had to call her and tell her to check her toilet. It gets stuck and it will run and fill water a few times and that clues me in that it is stuck. She just flushes and walks away to a different part of the house without waiting for the toilet to fill. Since I am almost right beneath her bathroom, when I hear it, I know how long it takes for the water cycle to repeat itself so I know when its in repeat mode. It really only takes a couple of minutes to wait for your toilet to fill and make sure it is not stuck.

    Also, I have to say to make sure the sink faucets are not leaking due to the washers. If the faucet leaks, it may be time to simply get new washers which are only a couple of dollars rather than just replacing the whole fixture which costs a lot more.

  3. Gary King permalink
    March 15, 2011

    Replacing a flush valve is not a big deal after you’ve done it a couple times. There are various models, including a newer kind that automatically detects a continuous flush and automatically shuts off the water.
    In my home, I have a really old toilet with a large tank. In order to reduce water consumption (and reduce fill time) I put a couple rocks and bricks (carefully!) into the tank. It takes a little less than a minute to refill– just enough time to wash my hands, dry them, and turn off the light. I exit the bathroom just as I hear the fill valve shut.

  4. Stephen Colley permalink
    March 15, 2011

    Also worth mentioning is the large amount of wasted water due to leaks in lawn & landscape irrigation systems. It is not easy to detect leaks, so careful monitoring of one’s monthly water bill is warranted. In addition, too many irrigation systems are poorly designed or set to use more water than the landscape needs. Thank you for the article and happy Fix a Leak Week!

  5. Rebecca Montena permalink
    March 16, 2011

    Please publish my email because it also belongs to my website which will connect to my blog, which will ultimately connect visitors to facebook, myspace and twitter. The themes of which are the important environmental issues and other political issues of the day.

    I agree on this water problem, maybe if more people understood the importance of drinking water. However, they might understand that in other countries, but, for the most part, our affluence has made us largely blind to most of the problems. Electricity is the same thing, so is being ecosensitive and recycling. All one really needs to do? Is look at our landfills and the sides of our roads. Yuck, and why? Because we don’t seem to mind that our dollars are going to paying higher bills, internalizing the costs to the companies by allowing them to blow tops off of some of the most beautiful mountaintops in the world,much less in our country. Because we don’t mind paying higher water bills, electric bills and/or paying more taxes to allow our cities, states and counties to have the roadsides cleaned up of our garbage and our reusables/recyclables. Hmmm, interesting isn’t it? That some in Washington want to cut funding to the one agency we may need most of all: the EPA.
    So, America, let’s pitch in and fix those leaks, turn up those a/c’s, and in general, save our money and our environment. Coal is dirty, after the last weeks events in Japan, Nuclear Power is not exactly safe, Oil is OIL. We are essentially killing ourselves, our animals and our environment for comfort????

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