Your Water Meter As Leak Detector

Unfortunately, most customers don’t realize they have a leak until they receive an outrageously high water bill. Let’s get up close and personal with your meter, so this doesn’t happen to you: it can be used as a simple leak detector.

First, find the water meter. It’s usually located either in front of your home or in the alley, if there is one. Once you find the meter, flip back the cover and look at the face. Find the triangle; this is the flow meter. When water passes through the meter that triangle rotates.

Now, turn off everything water-related inside the house. If you have an irrigation system, turn that off too. If that triangle is still turning after you have turned everything off, then you have a leak somewhere.

National statistics reveal that, on average, 14 percent of all water waste comes from leaks in the home. The top three sources for home leaks are toilets, water softeners and lawn sprinklers.

  • Leaking toilets can be tricky. Most bathrooms are located away from the central area of your home, so you might not hear the water running. If you suspect your toilet is leaking, remove the lid from the toilet tank and place some dark food coloring in the tank. Wait for a minute and look to see if the dye makes its way into the bowl. If it does, shut the tank off at the wall until you can make repairs.
  • Water softeners are another big potential source for leaks. Almost always installed in the garage, water softeners are programmed to be backwashed after about 7,000 gallons of water has been used in the home. The backwash cycle is generally scheduled to occur early in the morning (most often around 2 a.m.). If you hear water running frequently or at other times, you have reason to suspect there might be a leak. There is a bypass bar towards the back side of the softener: this bar moves left to right. Push the bar all the way to the right. This allows you to use water in the home without the softener until it can be fixed.
  • All lawn sprinklers, by law, are required to have a backflow device. This is the rectangular box with a green lid located near your water meter. To prove that your irrigation system is the leaky culprit you’ll have to shut off the backflow. Once you remove the green lid you’ll see two shut off handles, usually coated with yellow or blue. Pull one of them up from the horizontal position. Now look at your water meter again: if the triangle stops turning, there has been a leak in your irrigation. Leave the backflow in the closed positon and call a licensed irrigator to help resolve your problem.

There are more appliances than you may be aware of that use water in your home. Others to keep an eye on include ice makers, refrigerator water dispensers, washing machines, dishwashers and your hot water heater.

While it is convenient to have some many devices that make use of water, it is terribly inconvenient to pay for water that isn’t used appropriately. Something as small as your water meter’s spinning triangle can be the key to major water savings.

Picture of Lisa Spears
Lisa Spears
Lisa Spears’ mantra is recycle, reuse… and thrift shop! While no longer with SAWS Conservation, Lisa has now taken her considerable horticulture, design, and reuse skills, along with her fuzzy feline accomplices, to the Hill County where she is sharing her great advice to friends and neighbors.
Dig Deeper

Find expert advice on garden basics, landscape design, watering and year-round maintenance.