Is There a Leak?

Dripping Faucet

In the U.S., minor home water leaks waste 1 trillion gallons of water every year.

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 upwards of 200 gallons of water every hour.

The "One-Hour Leak Test" 

Toilet leaks can be impossible to hear or detect, but this one-hour test can catch them. All you need is a dye tablet or food coloring and one hour to check your toilets.

How to check your toilets for leaks:

leak test graphic
  • Drop a dye tablet or add a few drops of food coloring into the tank at the back of your toilet and wait ONE HOUR. (While you wait, look at your water use and walk through your home using the tips below.)
  • If the color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak that can probably be fixed by replacing an old or faulty toilet flapper. If it's an older toilet, consider taking advantage of our Toilet Rebate Program to replace it and get a $100 bill credit. (Up to $100 per property owner per the life of the property.)
  • Don’t forget to flush the toilet afterwards to remove any dye in the bowl.

Watch Your Bill and Track Your Water Use Online

If you track your water use 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.

A graph of hourly water use shows continuous in the overnight hours with spikes in use during the day and early evning.
The hourly water use graph shows at least 6 gallons of water use every hour. That could be 144 gallons a day lost to a leak!

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 PeopleWater Used in Gallons
One1,800 to 2,900 Gallons
Two2,900 to 5,000 Gallons
Three5,000 to 7,000 Gallons
Four7,500 to 10,000 Gallons
Five10,000 to 12,500 Gallons

Helpful Tasks You Can Do in Under 10-minutes

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.
  • Don't forget about basement sinks and toilets, which are often rarely used and have older fixtures.

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.

Watch for leaks at work

  • Leaks don't just happen in our homes. If you see a leak at work– in the restroom, kitchen, or outdoors, report it to your maintenance staff.

Additional Resources

  • Visit the EPA's WaterSense Fix a Leak page for additional information and resources for chasing down leaks.

Why is it Important to Conserve Water?

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.

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