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EBMUD urges residents to 'fix a leak'

Officials tour Danville home with history of water leaks as part of National Fix a Leak Week

With California mired in drought conditions, the East Bay Municipal Utility District is promoting wise water-use practices and encouraging customers to find and repair leakages in their homes as part of National Fix a Leak Week.

"It's kind of daunting, in a way, to think that there are so many areas that (leaks) can happen" Danville resident Dottie Becker said.

Becker's house on Zagora Drive in southeastern Danville was one of four East Bay homes opened for EBMUD-led tours on Friday afternoon in advance of National Fix a Leak Week, set to begin this Monday.

EBMUD, which provides water for some 1.3 million residents in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, estimates one in four houses in its service area have some form of water leak.

"We did have a large leak. It went unnoticed, and that was really my fault because it went unnoticed actually several months," Becker said, referring to a broken irrigation valve in her backyard. "I was shocked when I found out how much it had actually been leaking. I had no idea."

Becker said EBMUD reps told her the irrigation leak resulted in hundreds of extra gallons of water per day before the problem was fixed in mid-February.

Even with the irrigation repair, Becker's outdoor sprinkler system still suffers from several common and costly inefficiencies, according to Rachel Garza, an EBMUD water conservation technician.

Garza pointed to issues such as overlapping sprinkler areas, overspraying onto concrete and stone walkways, and sprinklers spraying upward and outward, resulting in about 40% of that water being lost into the atmosphere.

Inside Becker's home, EBMUD officials found a slow drip in a sink in the seldom-used upstairs guest bathroom.

"You would be surprised -- if you were to put a bucket under that drip, drip, drip -- how much water during the day you were actually losing, wasting and pretty much spending your money on for nothing," Garza said.

The average drippy household faucet results in 45 extra gallons of water per day and an additional $5.40 per month in water charges, according to EBMUD.

Garza also confirmed a toilet leak in Becker's master bathroom by conducting a dye test -- a do-it-yourself examination EBMUD officials recommend residents run every six months.

The test involves placing a dye tablet into the toilet tank, changing the color of the tank water. The toilet should then go unused for several hours. If there's a leak, the colored water will move from the tank and into the toilet bowl.

People could also use food coloring as an alternative toilet-testing material, Garza said.

Finding a leak is only part of the message from EBMUD, which encourages water-users to take the next step and repair any problems.

The average American household water leak wastes more than 10,000 gallons annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which initiated National Fix a Leak Week.

For residents interested in checking their household system, EBMUD offers free WaterSmart Home Survey Kits, which include a worksheet, dye tablets, flow-meter bag, and step-by-step instructions for reading water meters and testing for leaks inside and outside the home.

For more information on the kit, conservation and other water issues, visit the EBMUD website.

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