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Find & Fix Leaks

Nearly one trillion gallons of water are wasted in U.S. homes each year from easy-to-fix leaks. To make matters worse, leaks waste an average of 10,000 gallons of water per home each year. That’s enough water to fill up a backyard swimming pool!

Figure out how much water is leaking in your home using the AWWA’s Drip Calculator.

Finding and fixing household leaks can save homeowners more than 10% on their water bill. Common leaks around the home include leaking or running toilets, dripping faucets and leaking valves. An unexplainable increase in your water bill, particularly after freezing weather, may be a sign you have a leak.

Water Smart Tips:

Finding Leaks

If you suspect a leak, your water meter can help confirm your suspicion. Make sure all faucets and water-using appliances like dishwashers and sprinklers are turned off and do not use any water during the test.

Test For Leaks 

  • With the water turned off, watch your meter.
  • If your water meter has a low-flow indicator (a small, triangular gauge or wheel), see if it moves. A flow indicator that moves when all water is turned off indicates a leak.
  • Some leaks use water periodically, such as a toilet leak. In this case, write down the numbers on your water meter and do not use water for an hour.
  • Check the meter after an hour and note any change in the numbers. If the numbers have changed, you probably have a leak.

Locating a Leak

Finding the location of your leak involves some detective work. Water leaks that occur in underground pipes can be hard to detect.


  • Look for leaks where your hose connects to the hose bib or along your garden hose.
  • If you have an automatic sprinkler system or drip irrigation system, look for soggy soil around sprinkler heads after running your sprinkler systems. Also, look for water drops around your automatic control valves.
  • Turn on your automatic irrigation system to check for broken sprinkler heads and pipes.


  • Watch for faucets that drip.
  • Look for faucet gaskets or pipe fittings with water on the outside of the pipe.
  • Listen for toilets that run after you’ve flushed them, when no one has recently flushed them, or in the middle of the night.

Did You Know?

A dripping faucet that fills an eight-ounce cup in 10 minutes can waste over 3,200 gallons of water per year. Most faucet leaks are caused by old or worn faucet washers, O rings and gaskets.

Many showerheads that leak where the showerhead connects to the pipe can be fixed by using Teflon or pipe tape on the connection between the showerhead and pipe and making sure the connection is tight.

Water Smart Tip: Diagram your fixture when taking it apart to show the order of its pieces. Take broken parts to the hardware store where employees can help you find the right products and provide guidance.

Toilet Leaks

A silent toilet leak, often caused by a flapper that does not completely close, can waste 50 to 500 gallons of water per day. A silent toilet leak that wastes 250 gallons of water per day would cost a City of Tacoma resident more than $50 per month in water and sewer charges.

Check your toilet for leaks:

  1. Take the lid off the tank, flush and watch for water to come up to the mark impressed into the ceramic of the tank.
  2. If water comes up higher than the mark level impressed into the ceramic of the tank, it’s easy for water to continuously overflow and run down the drain. If necessary, bend the float arm down so that the re-fill valve shuts off at the mark impressed into the tank. If the re-fill valve leaks, you may want to work with a plumber.
  3. Put a little food coloring into the tank. This will help determine if a leak exists in or around the flapper at the bottom of the tank.
  4. Don’t flush. Wait to see if any color appears in the bowl.
    If color appears, you probably have a leak at the flapper valve on the bottom of the tank. Flapper leaks can be caused by a worn flapper (easily replaced) or by a corroded flapper valve seat, which needs to be replaced by a plumber. If you replace the flapper, make sure you buy the right one for your toilet. The wrong flapper model may also leak.
  5. Flush your toilet to get rid of the food coloring.