Fix Leaks

Regardless of size, a leak is no small matter.

A small leak, about the size of the head of a pin, dripping at one drop per second can add up to 7 gallons a day. A big leak, the kind most often associated with a toilet malfunction, can waste 200 gallons or more per day. Knowing where to look for leaks can help cut water waste and manage utility costs.  Use our "Locating Leaks 101" slideshow or the information below for help.



Toilet leaks are the most common indoor leak. Checking regularly for toilet leaks can help prevent an unexpected big water bill. We recommend checking at least quarterly for toilet leaks. The fastest way to check for a toilet leak is to put a couple of drops of dark food coloring in the toilet tank. Remember, don't flush the toilet during this test. Wait at least 15 minutes, then check the water in the toilet bowl. If color has traveled into the bowl, the toilet tank is leaking. The Tampa Water Department also has specially designed leak detection tablets available upon request. The most common causes of a leaking toilet are:

breakout of toilet parts

 Water Drop   water running into the overflow tube;

 Water Drop   a warped or cracked flapper.

If water running into the overflow tube is the source of the problem, carefully adjust the float level control screw so that the water shuts off at a half inch to one inch below the overflow pipe.

If the flapper is warped or cracked, make sure to replace it with one that matches the brand and model of the toilet so the seal is tight. Costs for flappers generally run in the $5 to $10 range. Replacement is easy: just follow the installation instructions on the package.



Leaking faucets can be big water wasters. Check faucets in the bathroom and kitchen periodically for leaks. A faucet dripping at just one small drop per second can waste 7 gallons per day or more than 2,500 gallons per year! Leaking faucets are easily repaired by replacing worn washers. Do-it-yourself books with easy-to-follow instructions are available at libraries, bookstores and home improvement stores.

You can also save water by retrofitting older plumbing fixtures with newer low flow fixtures.

Sprinkler Systems

Broken sprinkler heads or damaged underground water pipes are common sources of leaks in sprinkler systems. It is important to watch your system run at least once per month to spot problems early. Look for wet depressions in grass and plant areas that may indicate broken pipes.

Broken heads only leak when the system is operating. Usually a broken head does not add very many gallons to the water usage, unless the sprinkler system is on. A broken pipe or valve on the other hand, can leak when the system is on or off and will add many more gallons to the usage.

Periodically give your irrigation system a checkup to ensure proper operation and water efficiency. Check the current water use restrictions for information on running your irrigation system for maintenance purposes outside permitted days and hours.


Small leaks can quickly add up to big waste and expense. Tampa has tiered water rates to encourage conservation -- the more water you use, the more it costs per unit. Wastewater charges are also based on your water use. For every unit (748 gallons) of water metered, the wastewater charge starts at $4.71. Each unit of provided potable water actually has a combined water and wastewater cost starting at $6.80 per unit.

A slow dripping faucet leaking just 0.1 gallon per minute (gpm) can add up to $12 or more in wasted water and  $35 or more in combined water and wastewater  charges in a single month. If it is a hot water leak you have to add on the cost of the wasted electricity needed to heat the water.

A constantly running toilet could result in more than $1,500 in combined water and wastewater charges in just one month.  You may be able to prevent this type of waste with just $15 in supplies from a home improvement store and an hour of repair time.

Leak Estimate Table:

  Leak Type   Leak Rate

  (gallons per minute)

  Leak Rate

  (gallons per month)

  Leak Rate

  (ccf per month)

  Slow drip     0.1       4,320       5
  Leaky flapper   0.25     10,800     14
  Stuck faucet     1.5     64,800     86
  Running toilet     2.5   108,000   144
  Leaking pipe       3   129,600   173

(Volume in gallons calculated from California Urban Water Conservation Council information at

Let Your Water Meter Help

If you suspect you have a leak somewhere but the most likely sources have checked out okay, enlist the help of your water meter.

  • First, make certain no water is being used inside or outside.
  • Locate your meter box, carefully remove the cover* and raise the top of the meter.
  • Find the leak detector, the small red triangle on the face of the meter dial. If all your water sources are off, the leak detector should not be moving.Important note: leaks in irrigation systems may only be active when the system is in use.
  • If the leak detector is rotating, you probably have a leak somewhere in your water system or pipes. You may need the services of a licensed professional to check for leaks and possible underground breaks in your service pipes.

*The water meter box cover may weigh between 20 pounds and 57 pounds, depending on meter size. Customers should not attempt to lift the cover unless they are physically capable of lifting and replacing it.