City Addresses Residential Water Leaks
by Bill Stewart
Huntington City Administrator
The City of Huntington sometimes gets complaints about high water charges. When this concern is voiced to us, we send public works employees to the residence to check the water meter, tap, and water lines from the water main to the meter. When we find a leak in one of these areas, we repair it. When we discover no leaks or problems with the main, tap, or lines to the tap from the water main, we inform the homeowner that he or she needs to check the lines from the meter to the house and all lines inside the house for leaks. Many of those leaks can be easily repaired. On occasion, a plumber must be called to repair the leak.
Water leaks at one’s residence could be causing a homeowner to waste as many as 10,000 gallons of water per year. That amount of water is the equivalent of approximately 270 normal sized loads of laundry in the average household.
Texas has one of the fastest growing populations in the country, which not only indicates the need for more water, but also the importance of conserving as much as possible. In 1950, Texas had only 8 million residents. In 2010, we had 25 million residents. It is estimated that by 20170, there will be 51 million people living within our state borders.
The population increase and occasional long periods of drought mean our water resources are continuously being threatened. As a result, water conservation has become critically important. Texans began to fully realize this need following the major drought of the 1950’s, our worst drought on record, and the second-worst drought of record that lasted from 2010 to 2014. Not knowing when the next drought will be is true motivation for conservation.
Finding leaks and fixing them will help conserve water. Looking for leaks that aren’t always obvious sometimes takes a while, but the result saves both water and money. Common types of leaks in residential settings, often easy and inexpensive to repair, include dripping faucets, toilet flappers, water lines underneath sinks and toilet tanks, and washing machine water hoses. They are relatively easy to repair and require only a few tools, as well as occasional new hardware.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the following steps can be taken to check for and determine the source of water leaks.
• Take a look at your water usage during a colder month, such as January or February. If a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, there are serious leaks.
• Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
• Identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 10 minutes, you have a leak. (Be sure to flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.)
• Examine faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of the pipe to check for surface leaks.
• Old or worn-out toilet flappers, (e.g., valve seal), can cause leaks. Flappers are inexpensive rubber parts that can build up minerals or decay over time. Replacing them can be a quick and easy fix for your water woes.
• If you have an in-ground irrigation system, check it each spring before use to make sure it wasn’t damaged by frost or freezing. 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.
• Don’t forget garden hoses! Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.
• 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.) Some leaky showerheads can be fixed by making sure there is a tight connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem and by using pipe tape to secure it. Pipe tape, also called Teflon tape, is available at most hardware stores, is easy to apply, and can help control leaks.