Be a Leak Detective for Fix a Leak Week

by Kimberly Scharl

2016 Fix a leak weekDid you know that easy-to-fix water leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water wasted each year in US homes?  And every year, the average household leaks more than enough water to fill a school bus. These leaks not only waste a precious resource, but they could also be costing you an extra 10% on your water bill each month.

Good news! Fixing these leaks can be easy and inexpensive.  EPA’s WaterSense program encourages everyone to be a leak detective and “chase down” plumbing leaks during the 8th annual Fix a Leak Week. Start by gathering clues that will help you detect leaks in your home:

  • Check your utility bill – Look at your bill from January or February.  If a family of four exceeds water use of 12,000 gallons during a winter month, it’s likely there is a leak.  You can also examine your water bill for unexplained spikes from month to month.
  • Read your water meter – Find your water meter and remove the lid.  Take a reading during a period no water is being used, then take another reading in 2 hours.  If the second reading is not the same as the first, you probably have a leak.
  • Take a toilet test – Put a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank and let it sit for 10 minutes.  If color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak that can probably be repaired with a new toilet flapper.  Make sure to flush after the test to avoid staining.

A good leak detective knows that leaks can be hiding in other places, too. Here are a few places you might want to investigate:

  • In the bathtub – Turn on the tub and divert the water to the showerhead.  If there is still a lot of water coming from the tub, your tub spout diverter may need to be replaced.
  • Under the sink – Check for pooling water under pipes and rust around joints.
  • Around the water heater – Check beneath the tank for pooling water, rust, or other signs of leakage. 
  • At the hose outside – If there are stray sprays, check the hose connection to the spigot, or try replacing the hose washer.

When replacing fixtures, remember to look for the WaterSense label.  WaterSense labeled products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well or better than standard models.

Celebrate Fix a Leak Week by chasing down leaks in your own home. Leak detectives can tweet out the news of leak repairs using #Ifixleaks.


About the Author: Kimberly Scharl joined EPA in 2010, after moving to the mid-Atlantic region from Mississippi. She is a financial analyst and project officer in the Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, and is the regional liaison for the WaterSense Program. Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.