Time to fix a leak: Easy ways to slash your water bill

by: Robin Taylor Updated:

None - PITTSBURGH -- That drippy old faucet is more than just a nuisance. It could be costing you a lot of money. Target 11 Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor got some advice from Pennsylvania American Water about ways to keep a little leak from turning into a giant water bill.

We get calls here at Target 11 from people who out-of-the-blue get a $500 water bill, and they're sure there's been a mistake. Nine times out of 10 they've got a leak.

The first place the water department will check is the toilet.

Randy Bergia, a technician with Pennsylvania American Water, showed me how to run a simple dye test.

"So you just dump [the dye] in here," said Bergia, as he put two blue tablets in the tank.

Five minutes later, you check to see if the dye has leaked.

"Now, if that different colored water comes out in there, without anybody flushing or anything, that means that toilet is leaking," said Bergia.

A small, silent leak may add an extra $5 to the bill each month, while a running toilet could add an extra $200-$300 to the bill.

"I'd say about 90 percent of the time it's going to be a toilet leak," said Bergia.

A steady drip can go through 20 gallons a day, while a slow stream of water could use 100 gallons.

"If you've got a little drip, that adds up fast, a little bit every day," said Bergia.

If the leak isn't inside your home, the water company will try to find out if the line is leaking. If you're lucky the leak will be their responsibility.

"A lot of times people will put their sprinkler on in the summer time and they will forget about it," said Josephine Posti, an external affairs specialist from Pennsylvania American Water.

Running a sprinkler for hours can cost a lot of money. Posti suggests using a timer with an automatic shutoff. She also showed me a moisture meter, which you stick in the ground. Much like a thermometer, it will measure the moisture in the soil, letting you know if you really need to water.

"If it's in the moist area, that means it's in good shape and really doesn't need to be watered," said Posti.