Is There a Leak?

Dripping Faucet

In the U.S., minor home water leaks waste 1 trillion gallons of water every year. If you track your water usage online and see that there are no times when use is at 0 -- even during overnight hours -- you could have a plumbing leak. Another warning sign is an unusually high water bill, especially during the winter.

Any water-using device or pipe connection can leak, and even a small drip from a faucet or shower often adds up to a big problem. At one drip per second, a leaky faucet wastes 3,000 gallons of water a year. A running toilet can waste 200 gallons of water every day. If you suspect you have a leak, here are some tips from the EPA:

Check all faucets and fixtures in your home

  • Look under sinks and check all faucets and shower heads for drips. Leaky faucets can be fixed by checking faucet washers and gaskets for wear and replacing them if necessary.
  • Most leaky shower heads can be fixed by ensuring a tight connection using pipe tape and a wrench.
  • If you are replacing a shower head or faucet, look for one that has earned the EPA's WaterSense label.
  • Listen for running toilets, but keep in mind some toilet leaks can be very quiet or silent. One way to find out if you have a toilet leak is to place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak (make sure to flush immediately to keep the coloring from staining the tank).
  • If your toilet is leaking, the cause is often an old or faulty toilet flapper. Over time, this inexpensive rubber part decays, or minerals build up on it. It’s usually best to replace the whole rubber flapper.
  • Don't forget about basement sinks and toilets, which are often rarely used and have older fixtures.
  • If you do need to replace a toilet, consider taking advantage of Madison Water Utility's toilet rebate program, which offers $100 to families that replace an older toilet with an EPA Water Sense rated high-efficiency model.

Check outside your home

  • Inspect outside spigots and garden hose connections
  • An irrigation system should be checked each spring to make sure it wasn't damaged by frost over the winter

How does your water use measure up?

On average, people in Madison use 55 gallons of water per person every day (this number includes people living in single-family homes, duplexes and apartments. For single-family homes and duplexes only, average daily use is 60.9 gallons per person). Here's how current monthly water use breaks down by household size in Madison:

Number of People Water Used in Gallons
One 1,800 to 2,900 Gallons
Two 2,900 to 5,000 Gallons
Three 5,000 to 7,000 Gallons
Four 7,500 to 10,000 Gallons
Five 10,000 to 12,500 Gallons

Why it matters

Preserving a safe, plentiful water supply for future generations is key to our mission at Madison Water Utility, but we can't do it alone. We can only protect Madison's aquifer if the public shares that goal, and the first step toward water conservation starts at home. We're helping customers catch leaks faster than ever before with our online usage tool that allows you to track your monthly, daily, even hourly water use.

Fixing minor leaks and installing water efficient fixtures may seem too small to matter, but it all adds up. Believe it or not, Madison as a whole uses less water today than we did in 1970, even though our population is much higher. It's all thanks to more efficient fixtures and a greater commitment from the public to use water wisely.