by Charlene Burgi
It’s National Fix a Leak Week—a week when we’re reminded to check our plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems and make any needed repairs to stop water waste.
Ironically, while visiting my granddaughter and a few out-of-town friends this morning, life presented a near water disaster that tied right into the “fix-a-leak” theme. The morning bustle found early risers lining up for showers and completing daily scrubs before granddaughter Kate rose and prepared for work. Within minutes of entering the bathroom she re-emerged in a state of shock wondering who last showered! It seems that she turned her back on the shower enclosure while waiting for the water to get hot enough to enter. Much to her surprise, water spurted up and over the top of the shower enclosure not only drenching her but creating rivulets on the tile floor before she could react to “stop the leak.”
We laughed at her detailed account of the situation, and then investigated why we all managed to fulfill our bathing ritual keeping the water within its intended confines. The story unfolded as we surrounded the shower stall and tried to replicate the drenching. It seems that the last person in the shower had adjusted the shower nozzle when leaving, angling it into a position that dispensed an unwelcome stream of water. Water was pouring out the top of the showerhead before ever reaching the spray portion of the head. One could only guess how long the showerhead had been losing effective shower water!
Leaks are deadly to your water bill. Silent leaks are the worst, as they come packaged in many forms and can catch you unaware. A toilet that flushes without anyone in the room is not the work of a friendly water-waste ghost, but a silent leak that lowers the tank water to a level that causes the toilet to refill even when no one is using it. Sometimes a leaking toilet can only be found by adding food color to the tank, then checking back after 15 minutes to see if the color has seeped into the bowl.
Water manages to find the easiest exit out of a pipe. While performing water leak investigations, MMWD’s Conservation staff often discover broken pipes silently leaking below ground. They also commonly find leaky seals around sprinkler heads throwing irrigation water out of the pipe before it ever reaches the nozzle— much like the showerhead misfortune Kate experienced this morning.
Water loss also can rear its ugly head when water pressure exceeds an irrigation system’s intended use. High water pressure may not show up as a leak by the conventional definition, but rather as misting into the atmosphere. This is as much a water-waster as a dripping faucet. Drip emitters can also pop off of a drip line when pressure exceeds the recommended amount of water flowing through the drip tube. The installation of a pressure regulator will correct these problems.
This week, check your water meter. Turn off all the water in the house and yard, then carefully remove the lid of the meter box with a screwdriver. Lift the meter cover and check that all the dials and triangle are not moving. If you see movement, you have a leak to find and repair. This is the week to investigate! While you’re at your meter box, snap a picture of your water meter for a chance to win a water-efficiency prize package through the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership’s “Fix a Leak Week” photo contest.
Remember, if you have water, you have the potential to find a leak when you least expect it, and it isn’t always found by an annoying drip, drip, drip. Just ask Kate!