Unseen or unfixed, they can drip hundreds, even thousands, of gallons of water wastefully down the drain. A little detective work several times a year can catch these water thieves in the act and put them out of circulation.
Most leaks result from worn washers in household faucets and showerheads. These faucets, as well as seldom-used taps in the basement or storage rooms, should be checked periodically. Faucet leaks are usually caused by worn washers of "O" rings (for washerless faucets). Repairing faucet leaks is easy. All you have to do is turn off the water supply line to that faucet, replace the washer and turn on the line again. Any good do-it-yourself book will offer advice on this simple task. If you're not a do-it-yourselfer, have the work done by someone who knows how to do the job.
The toilet is one of the most common water wasters but its leaks tend to be less noticeable than faucet leaks. To determine if your toilet is leaking, look at the toilet bowl after the tank has stopped filling. If water is still running into the bowl, or if water can be heard running, your toilet is leaking.
Most toilet leaks occur at the overflow pipe or at the plunger ball inside the tank. To locate a toilet leak, take the tank lid off and flush. The water level should come up to about a half inch or so below the overflow pipe. Adjust the float level control screw, if necessary, so the valve shuts off the water at that level. If the valve itself is leaking, you may need a plumber to fix it.
Although water may not be seen or heard running, your toilet may have a silent leak. To test for a silent leak, drop a little food coloring into the tank. DO NOT FLUSH. Wait for about 10 minutes. If the food coloring appears in the toilet bowl, your toilet has a silent leak. It is probably located in or around the plunger ball or flapper valve at the bottom of the tank. These leaks are also easy to fix with parts from your hardware or home store.
Check the outside taps for leaking water, particularly during the summer sprinkling season. A hose mistakenly left dribbling away in the grass or garden can waste thousands of gallons of water over the course of a summer. Remember to close outside faucets tightly every time you shut off the water!