Use Your Water Meter to Find Leaks!

EPA Fix A Leak WeekIt’s “Fix A Leak Week” so we’re sharing some insight on household leaks – the source of an estimated 10,000+ gallons of wasted water per home each year.

The “Leak Facts” page on the EPA WaterSense website is fascinating… and disappointing. It’s disappointing to realize we waste so much drinking water when there are so many people who don’t have access to safe water. Most of the repairs to stop leaks are relatively simple and should be among your list of recurring maintenance items.

Here are a few of the facts you’ll find on the page:

  • Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.
  • Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.
  • A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. That’s the amount of water needed to take more than 180 showers!
  • A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year. That’s the amount of water it takes to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher.
  • An irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.

There are multiple locations for leaks on your property. Leaks aren’t always at plumbing fixtures like faucets, shower heads and toilets where you can see and hear them. Sometimes leaks happen at valves and sometimes they happen in the water line between the meter and where the water line enters your home.

In addition to checking your plumbing fixtures, it’s a good idea to use your water meter to check for leaks you’ve not yet discovered. WaterSense recommends,

“Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak.”

You can use whatever period of time you like though it should be at least two hours so small leaks will flow enough water to be noticed when you check the meter the second time. Checking before and after work should be fine.

You’ll need to let everyone in your household know that they shouldn’t use any water. You’ll also need to close valves for automatic devices like the ice maker in your refrigerator, water filters, humidifiers built into your air conditioner and irrigation systems.

Checking your water meter should be relatively simple if you live in a single or two-family house. You should be able to find a vault or box for the water meter in the public right-of-way (close to the street in front of your property). The image below is a view into a meter box with metal the cover removed.

Plumbing - Water Meter Box

You might notice the valve in the image above. It’s below the water meter in the water line coming from the water department. You can see the two rings that aren’t aligned because the valve is open. That’s how your local water service can shut off water to a property – the two rings are aligned when the valve is closed so they can be padlocked to keep the valve closed.

This is also how you can turn off the water to your house in the event of an emergency. You probably have a valve in your house to turn off the water without leaving the house though this is another option. That valve is typically where the water line comes into the house, just inside your foundation wall. In older homes it may be in the meter box, on the other side of the meter.

The valve shown has a particular tool that’s used to open and close the valve. In an emergency, you should be able to operate the valve with a pair of channel locks.

The image below is a closer view of the water meter. To see if you have a leak, record the value shown before you start your test. Even if you don’t know much about water meters, you should be able to tell if the numbers increase because water is flowing through the valve.

Plumbing - Water Meter

If you see an increase when you check the second time, you’ll have to do some work to figure out if you have a leak or if there’s been some water use during your test period – this may be from family members who didn’t comply with your test, automatic systems, your neighbor stealing water from you, etc.

Hopefully, this relatively simple method will allow you to confirm your inspections of valves and fixtures in your house. Finding a leak is good because you can’t fix a leak if you can’t find it.

Good luck!

Please leave your comments and questions below. Thanks!

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2 Responses to Use Your Water Meter to Find Leaks!

  1. Karl says:

    Great! Thanks for this. This is very useful aside from helping my water bill it also helps conserve so much water keeping our environment healthy and not a waste.

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