Wake-Up Call

By Stephanie Thornton

It’s never a good feeling to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of rushing water. First, my foggy brain thought a neighbor might be taking an oddly-timed shower. Then I considered whether it was possible for a toilet to suddenly be that loud. As I groggily made my way to the source, I realized it was actually the sound of a broken faucet supply line spraying water all over the bathroom…and into the hallway. After a frantic few seconds, I was able turn the shut off valve to stop the tidal wave.

This is an example of a sudden–and very obvious–leak, but the average household is losing 10,000 gallons per year in more subtle ways. In fact, easy-to-fix household leaks add up to more than 1 trillion gallons of water lost annually nationwide. These leaks can rob homeowners of 12 percent of their water bill.

That’s why we are encouraging homeowners to find and fix leaks during the fourth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 12-18, 2012. Sponsored by EPA’s WaterSense® program, Fix a Leak Week reminds homeowners of the steps they can take to save water.

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. Visit for do-it-yourself toilet repair tips and videos.

2. Twist
Give leaking faucet and showerhead connections a firm twist with a wrench or apply pipe tape to ensure that pipe connections are sealed tight. If you can’t stop those drops yourself, contact a plumbing professional. 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.

By checking more carefully under the sink, I might have spotted the worn hose and replaced it before my mini-flood. Want to do more? Join EPA and thousands of your neighbors by supporting the We’re for Water campaign, organized by WaterSense. Visit to take the I’m for Water pledge.

About the author: Stephanie Thornton has worked at EPA for nearly 10 years and manages marketing and partner relationships for WaterSense’s residential plumbing program.

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