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Check for water leaks around your home

If your water bill seems unusually high, it's time to check for leaks. If you have an inside water meter (usually in the basement near the water heater or main turn-off valve) checking for leaks is easy. (Unfortunately, if your water meter is outside, under the ground, you cannot read your own meter and won't be able to use the following methods.)

Whole house method

  1. Take a reading before retiring at night. Do not use any water during the night.
  2. Read your meter again in the morning.
  3. If the readings match, there is no consistent leak in your home.

Toilets, hoses, faucets method

  1. Be sure no water is in use.
  2. Look at the meter. If the red dial is moving at all, water is running in your home.
  3. If that's the case, turn off the water at each toilet, one at a time, and check the meter after each turn-off. If a toilet is leaking, this process will pinpoint the source.
  4. If the dial continues to move even after all the toilets are off, you should double check your faucets and hose bibbs.

Common Toilet Leaks

The cost of a toilet leak

Watch this video for helpful tips and some easy-to-do methods for spotting toilet leaks, then follow the tips listed below.

Flapper Leaks

The flapper is a large rubber seal at the bottom of the toilet tank. If you see or hear water moving in the toilet bowl when it has NOT been used recently, you may have a flapper leak.

To check for a leak:

  1. Carefully remove the lid from the tank and place it securely out of the way.
  2. Place a toilet dye pill (available from WSSC Water Communications Office at 301-206-8100)  in the tank. Wait at least 20 minutes. If any coloring seeps into the bowl, WITHOUT FLUSHING, you have a leak. This test should be repeated every six months.
  3. Touch the flapper. If any material from the flapper gets on your fingertips, the flapper is deteriorating and needs to be replaced.

You Have A Leak Inside Your Toilet Tank If:

  • The lift wires and/or guide are corroded, bent, or hanging-up and preventing the flapper from closing properly.
  • The valve seat on which the flapper rests is covered with scale or corroded.

Overflow Leaks:

Examine the water level in the tank. If water is draining into the top of the overflow pipe, the ballcock valve needs adjustment or replacing. If you are not sure if the water is spilling into the overflow pipe, place some finely ground pepper or baby powder along the walls of the toilet tank. If the powder moves toward the center, you have an overflow leak.

  • Adjust the float arm until the water level is 2 inches below the top of the overflow pipe.
  • Position the metal float arm slightly for desired water level.
  • On a plastic float arm, turn the adjusting screw located on the top of the arm.
  • If your toilet has a Fluidmaster type of valve, adjust the sliding clip.

Siphon Leaks:

Adjust the refill tube above the water line, 1/4 inch over the overflow pipe. Clip the tube to the overflow pipe to stabilize it so it does not insert deeply into the overflow pipe. The refill tube should never be "stuck down" into the overflow pipe.

Other Water Leaks

Outside Hose Bibbs and Faucets:

Hose bibbs and outside faucets are often left in a "ready-to-use" state in the spring and summer for activities such as watering the lawn or garden. But if you plan to leave your home for an extended time, be sure to turn off outside faucets from inside your home, to be sure no one else can use your water. If you can't find the inside valve, please contact us.

Hose bibbs and outside faucets are sometimes left on for long periods of time. Common garden hoses can be used from 630 to 1,020 gallons per hour. Since our water and sewer rates are based on your average daily consumption, your bill could increase substantially if you use a lot of water outside.

Need more help?

Property Inspections

Although any leaking plumbing fixture is solely the responsibility of the property owner, for a fee, WSSC Water offers a plumbing inspection to help residential customers locate leaks. Our inspectors check fixtures such as toilets, hose bibbs, faucets, and pipes. However, our inspectors are not plumbers; therefore, they cannot make repairs if a leak is identified. Residential customers may request this service by emailing or calling 301-206-4001. CAP customers may request this service for free once a year. 

Learn more about Property Inspections

Have a Large Bill?

If you have concerns about a large bill, and need help looking into it, contact us weekdays between 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., at 301-206-4001, 1-800-828-6439, TTY 301-206-8345, or

Last Modified: March 1, 2024, 1:35 pm EST