Leaks and Conservation

Typical water use is broken down into the following categories:

36% Lawns and gardens
20% Showers and bath
19% Toilets
16% Clothes and dish washing
9% Potable Uses

Understanding water meters

Water usage is measured by consumption units. One consumption unit is the same as 748.5 gallons, or 100 cubic feet. A container five feet long by five feet wide and four feet high holds one consumption unit.

If your consumption is high, many factors could be the cause. It could be the following:

  • More people could be living in the household.
  • If your reading has been estimated low and then a reading is taken, the cost may go up.
  • Summer water usage may be higher because of garden watering or hose usage.
  • Water-cooled air conditioning in businesses can raise water usage.
  • Leaky plumbing may be causing water loss.
  • The meter may not be operating correctly. Test it.

To test your water meter for leaks, check to see if it has a leak indicator on the face of the dial. It is a triangular or diamond-shaped indicator that revolves 354 times for every gallon of water that passes through the meter. (Note: You may see what looks like water on the face of the dial. It is oil that prevents corrosion and increases the life of the dial mechanism. It does not enter the water supply and does not affect the quality of the water you consume.) Look at the indicator when no one is using water. It should not be moving, but if it is, you can start checking your faucets and fixtures. One at a time, turn off the valves that supply each fixture and check the indicator after each shutoff. When closing a valve stops the indicator from moving, or slows its movement, you have found the location of a leak. There may be more than one.

High efficiency toilets

High-efficiency toilets are defined as toilets that use 1.6 gallons or less per flush (1.6 gpf). Though available since the early 1980s, the high-efficiency toilets are now a standard.

Some reports of clogging and insufficient bowl clearance of these toilets have been logged, however lab and field studies have not verified the reports, even though bowls are not necessarily consistent.

Surveys indicate that most customers of high-efficiency toilets are satisfied, however there are variations among make and model.

Toilets use the most water in the home, but efficient toilets can reduce water use by 23% to 46%. This impact, over time, reduces water demand as well as the generation of wastewater, which is helpful to the overall infrastructure. The environmental impact of this reduction is significant as well, helping aquatic habitats, restoration of wetlands and fisheries, protection of ground waters from depletion and contamination, and reducing energy for pumping and treatment.

Your leaky toilet

Toilet leaks are the most common type of leaks, and are difficult to detect. This problem is significant because it can waste 30 to 500 gallons of water each day.

If you would like to test your toilet for leaks, put food coloring in the tank, let it sit without flushing for 10-15 minutes, then check to see if the color has come into the bowl. If it has, then you have a leak.

One of the problems that can cause leaks is an old or deformed flapper valve. This can be caused by toilet tank cleaning products. When replacing a flapper valve, bring the old one with you to the hardware store. To remove it, turn off the water, disconnect the chain or tail, then slip the ears of the flapper off the trunion. Replace it with one that matches the size or shape, and if your toilet is very old, you may need to contact the manufacturer. After installing, run the dye test again. If you still have a leak, then you may need to replace the flush valve.

Toilets often run at night, and there is a simple reason for this. In municipal settings, lower water use at night causes water pressure to rise, which can cause the water in your tank to rise. For this reason, manufacturers recommend that the water level be set an inch below the overflow tube to avoid this problem.

Don’t flush: Common cloggers

Whether your household wastewater goes to the local sewage treatment plant or a septic system, here are a few things that clog pipes and cause sewage backups and should NEVER be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain:

  • Disposable diapers
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Grease
  • Hair
  • Coffee grounds
  • Hot wax
  • Paper products
  • Toothpaste
  • Food particles
  • Oil (cooking)
  • Dirt
  • Soap
  • Mineral build-up from hard water

Household Hazardous Wastes

These liquids are not intended to enter wastewater treatment facilities, and are forms of environmental pollution:

  • Gasoline
  • Oil (motor)
  • Antifreeze
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilizers
  • Paint

Simple drain maintenance

Preventing clogs and back-ups means regular maintenance. Older houses and apartments with old plumbing need even more attention. Using caution and cleaning drains and strainers will help. Keeping hair, food, sediment and grime from going down the drain prevents flow-stopping accumulation.

Sinks, toilets, tubs, and traps prevent the back flow of sewer gas back into your home. This is where most clogs occur. Sometimes they will pass with a little time, but at other times, an intervention is required.

To address the problem of clogs, find the location. A plunger can be used on drains or toilets. A drain snake allows you explore and probe the drain until you can pull up the clog. Natural and bacterial enzyme treatments like Bi-O-Kleen Bacout or Bio-Clean will break down organic wastes and can be used on a regular basis for prevention. Drano Liquid-Plumr or other chemicals are a last resort as they can corrode piping and pollute the environment.

Staff from Plumbing and Heating by Craig are happy to help with clogs if traditional approaches do not work. It is never recommended to try to take pipes apart to try to find a clog.