Leak & High Usage Information

Tracking down a water leak can be a very time-consuming and frustrating endeavor. Provided below are some recommended tips and guidance for identifying and dealing with a leak and high usage.

Water Usage - You might be using more water than you think

Water is used in a variety of ways every day in our homes. The average American family can use more than 300 gallons of water per day (with 70% of that usage occurring indoors). Below are some examples about how much water is used for simple, every day uses:

  • Toilet flush = 1.5 to 2 gallons of water
  • Shower = 25 to 50 gallons of water
  • Hand washing = 2 gallons with running tap
  • Tooth brushing = 2 gallons with running tap
  • Outdoor hand washing = 5 to 10 gallons a minute
  • Automatic dishwasher = 10 gallons
  • Dishwashing by hand = 20 gallons
  • Tub bath = 36 gallons of water

If you believe that you have a leak or are concerned about high water usage on your most recent bill, then keep reading below to find out how to check for a leak and to learn about some of the culprits of high-water usage. 

How to Check for a Leak

Step 1: Determine If You Have a Leak

    1. First, make sure no water is being used inside or outside your home.
    2. Next, locate and check your water meter.
    3. If the water meter's normal or low flow indicator is moving, it means that you have a continuous leak somewhere in the line.

Step 2: Identify if the Leak is Inside or Outside your Home

After you determine that you have a leak, the next step is to identify if the leak is inside or outside your home.

    1. If your home is equipped with an irrigation system, turn off the double check valve and/or RPZ. Check the leak indicator for movement. If the leak indicator stops, you have a leak in your irrigation system. 
    2. If the leak indicator is still moving, locate your home's main shutoff valve and turn it off. Texas plumbing code requires all homes have one. It is usually located near the entrance of the water service to your home in a small round valve box. In newer homes, it could be in a valve box cabinet inside your garage. Cutoffs located outside the home are usually covered by landscaping.
    3. Make sure you're not using any water and then check the leak indicator. If it stops moving or there is no change in the meter readings, then you have a leak inside your home. If the leak indicator continues to move or there is a change in meter readings, then the leak is outside between the meter and the house.
    4. If you are unable to locate the leak, you may need to call a plumber and/or irrigator.

Potential Causes for Leaks or High-Water Usage

Landscape Watering Schedule/Irrigation System

Leaks or changes to your irrigation watering tend to be the #1 cause for unexpected high-water usage.  Here are some tips for checking your irrigation system:

  1. If you have an irrigation timer, check the programming. Sometimes a second start time gets added or a valve may have a run time on two different programs. Also, if a power outage occurs, the controller may have reverted back to a default program and needs to be reprogrammed.
  2. Irrigation leaks may only display themselves when the system is running. Remember to turn on your irrigation/sprinkler system, run each individual station separately and look for blown or damaged sprinkler heads or faulty drip emitters. A dark wet area (without a drip emitter) is a good indicator during the system run time of a possible leak within the system.
  3. If you recently purchased a home, then make sure to check you irrigation settings. Builders will often have the irrigation set to high in an attempt to help establish any newly installed sod and landscaping for your new home. 

Leaking Faucets

Leaking faucets are generally a result of a worn rubber washer. The washer on a sink is usually located under the handle. These are relatively easy to replace if you have the right tools. It does require shutting off the water under the sink or at the main shutoff valve and removing the handle (Note: Faucet handles are not shutoff valves). Check at your local home center or hardware store on how to repair faucet leaks.

Leaking Toilets

Toilet leaks are often silent and can waste hundreds of gallons of water. Over time, even a small leak can add up to a lot of wasted water and money. Fortunately, most toilet leaks are easy and inexpensive to repair. 

To help determine if you have a leaking toilet, remove the tank lid and place a few drops of food coloring in the back of the tank. You can also purchase dye tabs from any hardware store or home center. Wait about 30 minutes without flushing and then look in the toilet bowl to see if any color has come through. If the water is clear, you do not have a leak. If you see food coloring in the bowl, you have a leak. In most cases, you will need to replace the toilet flapper and/or filling mechanism. These are available at hardware stores and home centers for about $10.00.

Flapper Valve Leaks

The most common reason for a leaking toilet is an improperly working or sealing flapper. The flapper is the rubber valve in the bottom of the tank that lifts up when the toilet is flushed. If the flapper is worn or cracked, it allows water to continuously flow from the tank into the toilet bowl without flushing.

Flush Handle Problems

If the handle needs to be jiggled to keep the toilet from running, the flush level bar and chain, or the handle itself, may be sticking. Adjust the nut that secures it in the toilet tank. If that does not work, the handle may need to be replaced.

Overflow Tube Leaks

If the water in your toilet tank is too high, it will spill into the overflow tube. Ideally, the water level should be set so that it is even with the fill line on the back of the toilet tank. Adjust the water level by turning the adjustment screw or by very gently bending the float arm down. If none of these steps solve the problem, you may need to contact a plumber to repair or replace the toilet.

Hot Water Heater Leaks

Check for pooling water on the floor by your water heater or in the overflow pan. Many times the cause is a dripping valve that needs to be replaced. If the valves are dry, there's a chance the leak is inside the tank, which means you may need a new water heater.

To determine if the leak is inside your water heater, find the pressure relief and drain valves at the top and bottom of your heater. Listen closely for dripping, gurgling, or hissing sounds. It's possible the leak has not manifested visibly on the outside of the water heater but can still be heard.

Exterior Hose Bibbs

"Bibbs" are the faucet-like pipes on the side of your home where you hook up a watering hose. These may be actively dripping or could hiss and vibrate faintly as water passes through. In most cases, you can stop a leaky bibb by tightening the packing nut that secures the handle, or by replacing the washer inside the handle assembly. If the bibb is still leaking, call a plumber and have them trace the leak further back into your pipes. The average home has one to two bibbs along the outside, but larger homes may have more.

Pool Leaks

Swimming pool leaks are usually much harder to reliably diagnose and repair than other household leaks. If the water level in your pool keeps dropping rapidly after you fill it, that's an indication of a leak. Contact the pool's original installer or a reputable maintenance company to find the leak for you. 

There are a lot of places where something can go wrong in a swimming pool, including the pump, filter, skimmers, vacuum lines, drainage system, or even lighting elements. It's important to call a specialist if you believe you have a pool leak because they are so complex. This also applies to other major water installations like fountains and ponds.

Aging or defective water softeners

Make sure appliances such as water softeners are cycling on and off appropriately according to manufacturer’s recommendations


Condensation can also be a form of leak. While condensation is normal, excessive condensation can cause damage to your walls, ceiling, floors, and woodworking. If there is too much condensation, insulating your pipes may stop or reduce it.

Billing Cycles

The number of days in the billing cycle may affect total consumption. All efforts are made monthly to provide a consistent billing cycle. There may be occasions due to weather and/or holidays that the number of days in your cycle differs (28 days vs 32 days cycle read).


Weather can affect the amount of water you consume each month. Remember you are billed this month for water that you consumed last month.

Warnings When Attempting to Fix a Leak

  • Before you attempt to unearth a buried water line located in your yard, contact 811 In Your State and ask them to come mark their position. Blindly digging on your property could come with financial and physical risks. 
  • If you decided to handle a leak yourself, make sure you know what you're doing and work cautiously. Otherwise, you could end up causing multiple leaks in the process.
  • If you suspect there is a leak inside your water heater, call a plumber immediately and keep your distance in the meantime. Tampering with a water heater can be dangerous.