Living Green 365: Water leaks

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Living Green 365

Is your toilet taking a leak?

Water meter

In Minnesota, we have some of the cleanest public water supplies in the nation. However, Minnesota's thirst for this precious resource is outpacing nature’s ability to replace it. It is safe to say that water conservation is more important than ever.

There are lots of ways to use less water. Start by checking your home for leaks, as a part of Fix a Leak Week (it's this week!). Household water leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of water and can increase your water bill by over 10 percent.

Check for leaks using the water meter

You can use your water meter to do a quick check for water leaks. First, turn off all water-using appliances, including showers, sinks, washing machines, dishwashers, automatic ice-makers, and hoses. Next, find your water meter. Most meters are located in the basement or a utility room.

To check for leaks, look for the “leak indicator.” On many meters, this is a little red or black disc. If it is spinning, you have a leak. If you have a digital meter, start by shining a flash light on the sensor to turn on the LCD panel. Then look for a small faucet icon. If the faucet is there, you have a leak. If you do not see the faucet icon, you do not have a leak.


Investigate the toilet

Another way to check for leaks is to go straight to the likely culprit--the toilet. Toilets leaks are common and waste hundreds of gallons of water each day.

Just add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring or a non-toxic dye tablet into the toilet tank.* Wait 20 minutes without flushing, and then check the bowl. If there is color in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.

Most toilet leaks are easy to fix. Watch this how-to video, which will help you identify the source of the leak and give you good tips for fixing it (dual-flush toilet owners: watch this video). Worn-out flappers are often the cause. Remove the flapper and take it to the hardware store so the staff can help you find the best replacement. If you know the make and model number of your toilet, bring that information as well. After fixing the flapper, use food coloring or a second dye tablet to see if you’ve fixed the leak.

*The MPCA is offering free toilet leak-detection tablets to Minnesota households, while supplies last. You can order your packet online, call 651-757-2999 or email

Other water-saving actions  

Once you’ve fixed your leaks, you are on your way to saving even more water. You can also: 

  • Use the dishwasher and only run full loads.
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.
  • Take shorter showers. Can you do 5 minutes or less per person?
  • Use low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads. The WaterSense label can help you identify water-saving products.

Look for rebates and discount programs that can help you pay for water-saving upgrades. Start by asking your city, natural gas provider, and water supplier whether they have a program. Look at your bill if you are unsure who supplies your gas or water. Some programs are listed in the WaterSense rebate finder. Other Minnesota programs include:

Community events and resources

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is now accepting applications from organizations interested in participating as a host site for the 2013 - 2014 year of the Minnesota GreenCorps program. Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the MPCA, which places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues, while gaining experience and learning valuable job skills.

Earth Hour is an annual event that invites each of us to turn off the lights for one hour in a “massive show of concern for the environment.” The City of St. Paul participates by turning off non-essential lights on all public buildings. Join in on March 23, 8:30-9:30 p.m.

The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) connect individuals and their communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community-based clean energy projects. Join the Metro CERT for their annual spring resource and networking event, April 17, 4-8 p.m., Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul).

Thank you for reading Living Green 365. This newsletter is a publication of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Please send questions or comments about living green to the address below.


Britt Gangeness and the Living Green Team