How to check for Meter Leaks
Higher Water Use – Troubleshooting Tips
There are numerous reasons why your water consumption may increase from one month to the next. A malfunctioning irrigation system (usually the most common cause) or a change in your landscape watering schedule. Aging or defective reverse osmosis units or water softeners and weather can also affect the amount of water you consume each month. Billing cycles can also effect total consumption, the time of the month that the City reads the meters (28 day vs. 32 days cycle read). Discovering what is causing the additional consumption is the responsibility of the property owner or renter. The following information may help you discover the reason(s) for your increased usage.
Check Flow at the Meter
The meter can help you determine if you have on-going or continual water usage. Conducting a meter flow check is easy to do.
1. Make sure everything that uses water in your home is off and not currently in use.
2. Locate the water meter (usually located in the front of your property near the street or sidewalk) and lift the lid with a screwdriver to expose the water meter. Beware of insects or critters inside the meter box.
3. Look for the odometer design register dial and sweep hand or triangle (the triangle is usually either black or red in color). Record the starting numbers and position of the sweep hand or triangle.
4. Do not use any water for at least 20 minutes and then take a second reading.
5. If the two sets of numbers are different or the sweep hand or triangle has moved, you have a leak and you’ll want to determine what is consuming the water. If you can see that the wheel is turning but cannot tell if the sweep hand or triangle has moved, then a small amount of water is being consumed. Even the smallest amount of water can add up to a significant amount.
Please Note: Reverse Osmosis Systems can take up to 5 hours to regenerate, consider shutting off its water feed supply so it does not interfere with the performance of the check. If the meter displays flow go to Meter Flow Check Displays Water Use.
6. If the two sets of numbers are the same, the sweep hand or triangle has not moved and the dial is not moving, go to Meter Flow Check Displays No Water Use.
Meter Flow Check Displays Water Use
Proceed by making sure your service line isn’t leaking. (A service line is either a copper or plastic line located underground that is under pressure and provides water from the Town’s water main through your meter to your residence.) Go to the house shut off valve. This is either a ball valve or a gate valve usually located at the front or side of the house near the hose spigot. Turn the shut off valve to the “off” position. If irrigation and/or an automatic pool filler line are located before the house shut off valve, turn their shut off valve to the “off” position as well. The goal is to only allow the service line to receive water in order to verify a leak within the service line. Check the water meter to see if the water has stopped. If there is no movement or water use indicated at the water meter then your service line is in good shape. Water usage or movement on the water meter indicates a leak within the service line. Remember to turn the shut off valve(s) back on after the completion of the test.
Locating possible outdoor on-going or continual water use
1. Check for malfunctioning irrigation control valves. Look for constantly “oozing” or dripping leaks in low lying areas within the landscaping. Check in and around irrigation valve boxes. Look for “soggy” of “soft” spots, dark soil or excessive plant growth.
2. Check hose bibs or spigots to make sure they are completely turned off. (Spray triggers at the ends of hoses are notorious for leaks!)
3. Automatic fills for pools, fountains, or pet troughs can also fail. Make sure these devices are working properly.
4. If necessary, you can isolate either the irrigation or automatic pool fill lines (one at a time) by turning off its individual water supply valve to the “off” position. Check the water meter to see if it has stopped moving and recording water use. If the consumption has stopped, you have generally located the area of the water use.
Locating possible indoor, on-going or continual water use
1. Toilet leaks can be silent and can waste as much as 5,000 gallons per day! To identify if your toilet has a leak, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank, wait a few minutes (can be up to 20 minutes) and see if it seeps into the bowl. If it does, you have a leak. The most common cause of a toilet leak is a worn out flapper assembly.
2. Look under sinks and check for damp or wet spots within the cabinet.
3. Check faucets and showerheads to make sure they are completely turned off and not leaking.
4. Check water supply lines to appliances such as water heaters, water filters, refrigerator ice maker/water dispensers, and reverse osmosis systems.
Meter Flow Check Displays No Water Use
1. If you have an irrigation timer, check the programming. Sometimes a second start time gets added or a valve may have a run time on two different programs. Also, if a power outage occurs, the controller may have reverted back to a default program and needs to be reprogrammed.
2. Irrigation leaks may only display themselves when the system is running. Remember to turn on your irrigation/sprinkler system, run each individual station separately and look for blown or damaged sprinkler heads or faulty drip emitters. A dark wet area (without a drip emitter) is a good indicator during the system run time of a possible leak within the system.
3. Turn on pool equipment, fountains and other appliances to check for leaks or malfunctions when they are in use.
4. Automatic pool fill system can disguise issues within your pool. Occasionally, shut off the water supply line to the auto fill and see if the pool level drops during normal evaporation.
5. Make sure appliances such as water softeners reverse osmosis units are cycling on and off appropriately according to manufactures recommendations.
Meter Bench Test
We recommend that you thoroughly inspect your property, both indoors and outdoors before you request to have your meter tested. Typically, water meters slow down and measure less as they wear out. The City’s Water Resources Department has an active meter replacement program based on age and overall usage. If you want to request a test of your meter there is a charge of $100.00 if the meter is found to measure accurately based on the American Water Works Associations (AWWA) standards for the size of meter being requested for testing.
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