Check for Leaks

According to the EPA, one trillion gallons of water leaks out of homes and yards in the U.S. every year. Tree roots break irrigation pipe, mowers break sprinklers, and rubber parts like the washer in a faucet handle or the flapper in your toilet get old.  The only way to prevent a leak from costing you a lot of money is to check your meter and irrigation every three to four weeks.

Check Your Water Meter

This takes about 20 minutes. Repairs will take longer.

1. Turn Your Water Off

Turn off all water inside and outside your home, including your icemaker, irrigation and pool pump. Then find your water meter. It is usually located in front of your property near the street. If you need assistance, call Customer Service at 619-466-0585 during business hours. Pop open the small lid with a screwdriver. Remove the outer lid if you like. Be careful of spiders, rodents and snakes. Flip open the meter’s hinged lid and wipe off the face.

2. Check for a Leak

On the face of the meter, near the center, is the low flow indicator. It is usually light blue, white or red, and shaped like a star or triangle. It spins when water passes through the meter. If all water on your property is off and the low flow indicator is moving, you have a leak.

3. Isolate the Leak

Now you’re going to determine whether your leak is inside your home or outside. Look around the exterior of your home for a pipe coming out of the ground and going through the wall. It should be on the same side of the home as the water meter. This is your water line. If it looks like the illustration to the left you can turn the valves on and off to isolate your leak. If it doesn’t have valves, then you will need to look inside and outside for your leak.

How to Use the Valves
Valve A controls water flow into the home. Valve B controls flow to the irrigation. To close a valve, turn the handle perpendicular to the pipe.

Close Valve A and B
If low flow indicator is moving, leak is on the water line between meter these valves.

Open Valve A and Close Valve B
If low flow indicator is moving, you have a leak inside home

Close Valve A and Open Valve B
If low flow indicator is moving, you have a leak in irrigation. Note that not all irrigation leaks register on a water meter.

4. Find and Fix the Leak

Toilet

Find it
Put 2-3 drops of food coloring in toilet tank and wait 10 minutes. If the color appears in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.

Fix it
Turn off water supply to toilet, remove toilet tank lid and flush until tank is empty. Remove flapper at bottom of tank, take to hardware store, find a new flapper that matches the old one, and install.

Video: How to Repair a Toilet
Courtesy of California Urban Water Conservation Council

Faucets (sinks, showers and bathtubs)

Find it
Dripping faucet.

Fix it
Turn off water supply to faucet and turn faucet handle on to drain water. Remove handle(s), remove cartridge inside the handle and take to hardware store to replace (plastic cartridge) or replace washer and o-ring (metal cartridge).

Video: How to Fix a Leaky Faucet
Courtesy of the California Urban Water Conservation Council

Irrigation

Find it
If irrigation is off, the leak must be a zone valve that is not fully closing. Look for leaking sprinklers to indicate which valve is leaking.

Fix it
Unscrew the valve cap, remove and rinse the filter, and remove any obstruction below the filter.

Video: Sprinkler Valve Leak Repair
Courtesy of California Urban Water Conservation Council

Water Lateral

Call a professional plumber to locate the leak and repair the pipe.

Check Your Irrigation

This takes 30-60 minutes. Repairs will take longer.

Turn your irrigation controller to MANUAL and, one at a time, turn on and inspect each of your irrigation zones (stations).  Look for the following issues and make repairs.

Broken Sprinkler

Find it
If you see an unexpected fountain it is likely a broken sprinkler head and the leak is using a lot of water.

Fix it
Mark that sprinkler for repair. When the irrigation is off, clear the soil from the sprinkler, unscrew it, take it to the irrigation supply or hardware store, and buy a replacement with the same spray pattern (360, 180 or 90 degrees, or adjustable).

Off Target Sprinkler

Find it
Sprinkler sprays in wrong direction.

Fix it
The stem is the part of the sprinkler head that pops up above ground when the sprinkler is on. Rotate the stem by hand to aim the water in the right direction. Some brands make a ratcheting sound when you rotate the stem.

Seeping Sprinkler

Find it
Look for sprinklers at low end of a slope seeping water after the zone is turned off.

Fix it
Install a check valve on each seeping sprinkler or replace with a new sprinkler head with a built-in check valve. These are available at an irrigation supply store.

Broken Irrigation Pipe

Find it
Look for water bubbling out of the ground while the zone is turned on and look for exceptionally wet or soggy areas after the zone is turned off.

Fix it
Carefully dig down and look for crack or hole in the pipe. Cut out the broken pipe with PVC cutters and replace with segment of equal length, two PVC couplers and PVC glue. Or have landscape contractor make repair.

Video: How to Repair PVC Breaks
Courtesy of California Urban Water Conservation Council

Check Your Pool

This takes 24 hours.

Do the Bucket Test

  • Fill bucket 2/3 full with pool water and put on pool step (in 5-6 inches of water).
  • Turn the pool pump off.
  • Mark the water level inside the bucket.
  • Mark the level of the pool water on the outside of the bucket.
  • Turn the pool pump back on and wait 24 hours.
  • Check water level in bucket and in pool relative to marks on the bucket. if water loss in bucket and pool is equal, it’s due to evaporation. If water loss in pool is greater, you have a leak.

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