Detecting Water Leaks

Regardless of size, a leak is no small matter.

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. We recommend checking at least quarterly for toilet leaks in these two common areas:

  • a warped or failing flapper.
  • water running into the overflow tube.

Check for a warped or failing flapper by adding a couple of drops of dark food coloring to the toilet tank. Don't flush. Wait about 15 minutes, then check the water in the toilet bowl. If the color has traveled into the bowl, the toilet tank is leaking at the flapper. If the flapper is warped or failing, be sure to replace it with one that matches the brand and model of the toilet so the seal is tight. Replacement is easy: just follow the installation instructions on the package. The Tampa Water Department also has specially designed leak detection tablets available upon request.

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.



Check faucets in the bathroom and kitchen periodically for leaks. A faucet dripping at just one small drop per second can waste up to 7 gallons per day. Replace worn washers to repair leaking faucets. Do-it-yourself is available online and at libraries, bookstores and home improvement stores.


Sprinkler Systems

Broken sprinkler heads or damaged underground water pipes are common sources of outdoor leaks. Observe your system in operation at least once per month to spot problems. Broken heads only leak when the system is operating. 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 your usage. Look for wet depressions in the grass and in-plant areas that may indicate broken pipes. Check the current water use restrictions for information on running your irrigation system for maintenance purposes outside permitted days and hours.


Leaks Can Be Expensive

Tampa has tiered water rates to encourage conservation -- the more water you use, the more it costs per unit. Wastewater charges also are based on your metered water use. For every ccf of water (748 gallons) metered, the wastewater charge starts at $4.71/ccf. Where wastewater charges apply, each unit of provided potable water has a combined water and wastewater cost starting at $6.80 per unit. Use the American Water Works Association Drip Calculator to estimate water loss from dripping or running fixtures.


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, there is a leak somewhere in your water system or pipes. Go to "Locating Leaks 101" for additional help in tracking down leaks.

*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.