Fix a Leak: Little Effort, Lots of Savings

By Tom Damm

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of April will focus on Water Conservation.

Barbara (B.J.) McDuffie of the ECA installs faucet aerator during Fix a Leak event.

Barbara (B.J.) McDuffie of the ECA installs faucet aerator during Fix a Leak event.

Consider this: The average American home leaks more than 10,000 gallons of water a year – about the amount of water needed to wash 280 loads of laundry or take more than 600 showers.  A faucet that leaks at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.

Though my family cringes when I volunteer to fix things, knowing that I’m likely to do more damage than good, even I could handle this one:

Unscrew the end of the faucet spout, pop out the existing rubber washer and filter screen, install a low-flow aerator and its washer, reattach the end of the spout.

That’s it.  Time involved? About 30 seconds.  Watch this video of how to install the aerator if you don’t believe me.

Barbara (B.J.) McDuffie of the Energy Coordinating Agency demonstrated how quick and easy it can be to save money and water during a recent EPA Fix a Leak Week event at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, where sets of new fixtures – aerators, showerheads and toilet flappers donated by the Delta Faucet Co. – were being installed throughout the building.

“Fix a Leak Week is a time for us to highlight the benefits of finding and fixing residential leaks,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, having just repaired a leaky fixture in his own home. “So we’re urging everyone to take three basic steps – check, twist and replace.”

  1. Check for leaks. Toilet leaks can be found by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank and seeing if color appears in the bowl before you flush. Don’t forget to also check irrigation systems and spigots.
  2. Twist and tighten pipe connections. To save even more water without a noticeable difference in flow, twist on a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator or showerhead.
  3. Replace the fixture if necessary. Look for the WaterSense label when replacing plumbing fixtures, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models.

Can’t wait to break out the tool box.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.