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Leaks account for 12 percent of residential water use

Burst pipes usually have obvious signs like water damage, a soggy area in the lawn, or a large spike in water consumption on your water bill. However, small leaks that add up slowly can be easy to miss, especially if your units do not have water submeters or the submeters are not monitored.

Running toilets are often the culprit

A medium-sized toilet leak could cost $200 a month in water and sewer charges. One running full-bore could cost $3,000 a month or more.

The rubber flapper at the bottom of the tank wears out, allowing water to leak from the tank through the bowl and down the drain. Flappers have an average lifespan of around 5 years. Learn the signs of a running toilet and how to repair it.

Tips for working with residents

Residents want to help! The Saving Water Partnership conducted interviews with multifamily tenants and learned that most want to use water efficiently.

Nearly 70% of those interviewed said they would report a running toilet within days of noticing it. Many identified having a responsive landlord or building staff as a reason they reported issues quickly. On the other hand, others said they did not report leaks right away because they did not want to be perceived as complainers.

At move-in:

  • Let tenants know that you want them to report leaks and how they should do so.
  • Make sure tenants know the signs of a running toilet and how much water they waste.
  • Address common misconceptions. Many tenants think that jiggling the handle fixes a running toilet and do not realize a repair is needed.

When a tenant reports a leak:

  • Respond quickly and thank tenants for reporting leaks.

Other best practices to catch leaks early:

  • Monitor utility bills closely to catch high consumption quickly. Look at water consumption for each meter on your bill rather than the total dollar amount.
  • Replace toilet flappers and check tank water levels during turnovers or as preventative maintenance.

Use your utility bills to find leaks

Calculate the “gallons per person per day” for your building using a recent water bill to find hidden leaks. Use a winter bill if your irrigation is not separately metered.

  1. Find the total gallons on your bill (you may need to convert CCF to gallons, 1 CCF = 748 gallons).
  2. Divide the total gallons by the number of residents.
  3. Divide by the number of days on the bill.

Average water use in multifamily housing in our region is 40 gallons per person per day (it is 60 gallons per person for single family housing). If your building uses much more than that and does not have any other water use (such as commercial tenants), consider asking tenants to check for leaks or doing a walkthrough. Old toilets may also be to blame if you have consistently high water use.