Water Leaks


Your first line of defense against water leaks starts with examining your water bill every month. You will see two readings on your bill, the previous month’s reading and the current month’s reading. The difference between these readings is how much water you have used. To establish your base usage amount look at your usage in the winter months when outside watering is minimal. This is called your base usage. You are billed for water in Cubic Hundred Feet (CCF). There are approximately 748 gallons per 1 CCF.  The average base water usage for an adult is about 3 CCF or about 2,300 gallons of water per month. Not all adults use 3 CCF but it’s a good benchmark to use. A spike in your water bill can indicate water leaks around your home.

Toilet Leaks

Toilets can waste anywhere from 30 to 500 gallons of water a day but are usually simple to fix with kits found at the hardware store.

Flapper Valve

The flapper valve is a rubber object at the bottom of the tank that holds the water in the tank before each flush. As the flapper valve ages, water seeps around its edges and flows into the bowl 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes you can see ripples in the water that’s in the bowl, but a lot of times you can’t. To see if this is the problem, drop a dye tablet (food coloring) in the tank. Don’t flush the toilet for as long as possible to see if the dye ends up in the bowl. If the color ends up in the bowl’s water then it’s time to replace the flapper valve. Note: Since flapper valves come in different sizes, it’s a good idea to take your old flapper valve with you to the store to make sure you get the correct one.

Toilet DiagramTank Fill Valve

As the tank fill valve ages it may allow a slow trickle of water to flow into the tank. As the water level keeps rising, it reaches the top of the overflow pipe. The overflow pipe is about 6” to 8” long and is generally right above the flapper valve. See if the water in the tank is even with the top of this pipe and if it is, then look directly down the pipe. More than likely you may see a slow cascade of water silently trickling down the inside of the pipe. This kind of leak can waste up to 20 to 30 CCF in one month. Most of the time, adjusting the float ball or float will keep the tank from overfilling. After you make the adjustment, keep an eye on it to make sure that the float ball or float has not worked itself back up. If you continue to have problems, you will need to replace the tank fill valve assembly.


The handle’s function is to lift the flapper valve so the water in the tank can flow into the bowl. As the handle ages it might get out of adjustment and interfere with the closing of the flapper valve. Sometimes all you need to do is to tighten the nut that attaches it to the side of the tank. If the handle is broken and needs to be replaced, disconnect it from the flapper valve and loosen the nut. Take the old handle to the hardware store and get a new one that looks exactly like the one you’ve removed.

Faucet Leaks

Faucet leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of water a day and are generally obvious to detect. Faucets with leaks around washers or “O” rings can be easily repaired. Other types of faucets can be a little more challenging to fix. If you are going to tackle the repair yourself, please research it on the Internet or find repair book to guide you through the process at the hardware store or the library.

Water Pipe Leaks

Some leaks in your water pipes can be detected by listening near where the water main enters your home, usually near the main shut-off valve in your house. If you are not using any water and you hear a hissing noise, this could mean you have a leak. If you turn off the main shut-off valve and the noise stops, there is a leak inside your home. If the hissing noise did not stop when you turned off the valve, the leak is probably outside your home. Outside water leaks can sometimes be detected by a wet spot in the yard or very lush grass in one spot. Outside leaks could be your responsibility to repair. You own the water line from your house to the water meter. If your leak is in this location, call a plumber to have it repaired. If the leak is in the water meter pit or near the city’s main water line, contact Columbia Water & Light to have the situation evaluated and repaired.

Water Softener Leaks

Your water softener does its job by periodically flushing itself via automatic valves. Sometimes these flush lines remain open, which may cause a hissing noise. This means a huge amount of water is going down the sewer.

Water Heater Leaks

Water heaters come equipped with pressure relief valves. These valves are a safety feature if the water heater malfunctions. This is easily checked by looking at the relief valve on the discharge pipe on the top or the side of the tank. Check here for any drips, which would indicate a leak.