Here’s How to Avoid Costly Water Leaks
Dripping faucets and running toilets are more than just a
nuisance. They waste water and cost you money. If your
water usage increases noticeably for no apparent reason, chances are
that there's a leak somewhere. Finding and fixing leaks can be
easy and inexpensive and can help you avoid costly water bills.
tank problems are often the cause of a leak, but repairs are the
most common do-it-yourself household plumbing project. Usually
it is caused by a faulty or worn flapper (when you have to jiggle
the handle to stop the water from running). One leaky toilet can
waste 78,000 gallons of water in one year – enough to fill a
backyard swimming pool. When your toilet is functioning properly,
water moves from the tank to the bowl only when the toilet is
flushed. But when a toilet is leaking, water moves from tank to bowl
on its own. You may notice that your toilet seems to flush by
itself; that is a definite sign of a toilet leak.
While there are several possible causes, by far
the most common source of a leak is the valve that controls the
release of water from the tank to the bowl. In most toilets, this is
a rubber flapper valve. Depending on water quality and whether you
use a toilet bowl cleaner in the tank, these flaps may last from 2
to 7 years.
To check your toilet for leaks:
Lift off the toilet tank lid. Without flushing,
place two (2) dye tablets (or 10 drops of food coloring) in the
If water in the bowl turns color within 10
minutes, you have a toilet leak.
Check Your Main Water Valve
The main water valve is the most important part of the system,
because it controls the flow of water into your house. It’s
vital to know the location of this valve in case of a leak – it can
save you thousands of dollars in damage. To locate it, find
the utility company’s water meter. The valve is usually on the
side of the pipes feeding into your house. It is also advised
that you test it by turning on a faucet somewhere in the house and
turning off the main valve. All water flow should stop.
If the valve is stuck, leaks, or does not turn off all the way, have
it replaced by a licensed plumber.
The rubber connecting hoses on your washing machine are possibly
the weakest links in any home plumbing system. Those hoses can dry
out, burst and allow thousands of gallons to rush into your home.
To avoid this problem, get into the habit of turning off the washer
supply valves every time you are done with a load of clothes.
If they are hard to reach, have them replaced with a single-lever
turn-off that operates both hot and cold water supply valves with a
Check Your Water Softener
Most softeners have a bypass lever. Turn the lever to allow
water to bypass the softener. Check the red triangle at the meter.
If the triangle is no longer moving, you have isolated the leak to
your softener. (You also can check for leaking swamp coolers,
water-cooled air conditioners, ice machines and reverse osmosis
units by turning the bypass lever on each and checking the meter.)
Check Your Main Service Line
Find the water shutoff valve to your home. It will be either in
your front yard, in your garage, or near your water softener. Shut
off this valve, which will turn off all water to your home. Turn on
a faucet to make sure there is no water flowing inside the home,
then check the meter. If it's still moving, the leak is most likely
between the shutoff valve and the water meter.
Winter plumbing problems are often caused by freezing weather.
If the thermometer drops too low, open sink and vanity cabinet doors
to warm the pipes. Be sure that outside hose faucets are
turned off and drained for the winter by loosening the brass cap on
the side of the valve.
It’s a good idea to insulate any supply pipes
that are exposed in a crawl space or on an outside wall of the
basement to avoid frost damage. If they do freeze, call a
plumber or use UL Certified heat tape to thaw them. If you’ll
be away from home overnight or longer, let the faucet drip, as
faucets are less likely to freeze with moving water. You might also
consider turning off your water at the main valve to eliminate
potential problems while you are gone.
If you've found your leak, you may be able to fix
it yourself. Repairs to toilets and faucets can be fairly simple,
while other leaks may need a professional plumber. Don't get in over
your head. If you're not sure that you can fix it, call a
City Water is Pure and Clean
As you may know, there have been several news
articles regarding the finding of prescription drugs in drinking
water. In some areas drinking water is treated water that has flowed
from lakes, streams and rivers. In these areas you may find that
treated and purified waste water is being placed back into those
lakes and rivers.
But according to Water Superintendent Johnnie
Hall, this is not so in the City of Niles. Niles City pumps water
directly from deep wells. This groundwater is “naturally purified”
by the layers of ground material (like rock) that it flows through.
“The water we drink in the City of Niles is tested and sampled 15
times each month at various locations throughout the system. We do
this to ensure the water is always safe to drink for our customers”,
said Hall. He also said that “ All the wells are tested annually and
a water quality report is sent each year to residents. The
groundwater we use has only a very small chance of ever being
contaminated because of the pure aquifier that this water passes
through”. He said, “our groundwater resources are not near or
connected to any wastewater plants or significant bodies of water
such as a lake or river. Contamination by prescription
medicines is practically impossible.”
In addition, you may have once seen city water
that was slightly yellow or brown. This phenomen happens because of
the content of iron in the water. . . . which is not harmful to our
bodies. However; the City of Niles Utilities Department recently
constructed a water filtration plant that filters out the iron for
those residents who may have been affected by this occurrence.
Life Support Equipment
The City of Niles Utilities Department encourages
life support customers who use certain electrically operated medical
devices to be prepared in advance for both planned and unplanned
Uninterrupted electric service cannot be
guaranteed by the City of Niles Utilities Department. The Utilities
Department is not liable for the specific health and welfare issues
of life support customers. It is the responsibility of the customer
to have an emergency plan and a back-up system to deal with such
Here are some suggestions that will help you
prepare for an emergency:
Cordless phones do not work during a power
outage. We recommend that you purchase a corded telephone that
does not require electricity.
If you require oxygen, it is recommended that
you have a 24-48 hour back-up supply of portable oxygen available
to you in the event of an emergency.
You may want to consider investing in a
portable emergency generator. Remember, it is important to follow
all safety guidelines when installing or operating a portable
generator. The City of Niles Utilities Department does not provide
generators for customers during outages. It is your responsibility
to plan for, and acquire, a generator if you need one.
If you require a sleep apnea machine, it should
be equipped with an alarm to alert you when the power is off.
During a short outage, those with this condition should consider
staying awake until power is restored.
In situations of long duration, help of a
friend or relative should be enlisted.
We will contact you annually to determine if your
medical situation or equipment needs have changed. Be sure to
contact the Utilities Department (683-4700, ext. 2071) if your phone
Spotlight - Utility Crews
The Utilities Department's Electric
Division consists of highly skilled electric line workers who
respond to emergencies - natural disasters, accidents, and other
"routine" power outages. They use specialized tools and
equipment to perform maintenance and emergency work. These
workers are prepared to respond immediately when public safety is at
risk. This includes de-energizing and removing power lines
before other rescue personnel can begin their work a the scenes of
accidents, fires, or other disasters.
The Utilities Department's Water Division
oversees the operations and maintenance of tour City's potable water
system, including the production, storage and distribution
facilities. Our crews respond to water emergencies such as
water main breaks, service leaks, valve leaks, damage to hydrants,
highline leaks, pressure problems, etc. They are responsible
for making sure our water supply is adequate and our tap water is
Yes, when your utilities go out. . . . we do too.
Regardless of the hour, the weather. . . or how dangerous the
situation may be. . . our Utilities Crews work hard to restore power
and water as quickly as possible to those who need it most.
Do You Have a Cross Connection Within Your Home?
Are you a weekend plumber?
Do you wash your car at home? Do you apply herbicides, pesticides,
or fertilizer through an aspirator attached to your hose? If
the answer is yes, you may have jeopardized the quality of the water
in your home, your neighbor's home, and the entire City.
A cross connection occurs when
the potable water supply from the City is directly connected to a
waste drain or sewer. Through back-siphonage and back-pressure
the reversal of flow can happen. In back-siphonage, the reversal of
normal flow in a system is caused by negative pressure on the City's
system that would reverse the flow in normal house piping. In
back-pressure, the reversal of normal flow occurs when downstream
pressure is greater than the City's pressure.
You, as a home owner, share
the responsibility of protecting the City's water supply. As a
homeowner here’s what you should do:
When you purchase new
toilets, make sure they are equipped with an approved anti-siphon
ballcock. When replacing ballcocks make sure the new one has an
approved anti-siphon device built in.
When installing a water
softener, do not install the waste pipe directly into the sewer.
If the solenoid valve should stick and the City was to have
negative main pressure due to a broken water main or repair, you
could siphon raw sewage into your house plumbing. Follow the
discharge line from the back of the control box mounted on top of
the small cylinder. This is where you make the settings for time
of day, grains per gallon, etc. (The other tank is where you
put the salt in.) There has to be a small discharge line that
should lead to a floor drain; make sure that it does just that and
that there is not a plumbing fitting tapped into the sewer pipe.
Do not leave hoses submerged
in tanks, pails or wet areas.
Install approved anti-siphon
hose bibb vacuum breakers on all outside faucets. Frost
proof units are available.
When installing a yard
sprinkling system, you must use some kind of backflow prevention.
Do not delete this item from your system. If you have a valve of
any kind downstream from your control box, towards your sprinkling
heads, you must use a pressure-type vacuum breaker. If there is no
valve downstream from your control box you may use a vacuum-type
backflow preventer. This, however, must be one foot above the
highest sprinkler head.
If you heat your house with a
boiler, you must have an approved backflow preventer on your
boiler feed line. A single check valve is not adequate.
If you have purchased a lawn
aspirator from the local garden store or nursery, make sure it
carries an NFS, ANSI, or UNDERWRITERS stamp of approval. These are
the jar-like devices that fit onto the end of your hose. You
place a small tablet containing a concentration of herbicides,
pesticides and fertilizers into the bottom of the container.
As water passes through the device, a portion of the concentrate
is diluted and applied to your lawn. However, if there should be
negative pressure on the City's system, the flow of water
containing this same herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer would
enter your home plumbing, your neighbor's, or even worse…. into
the City Water System. If the manufacturer states that he
has built an anti-siphon device into the aspirator, it usually is
for only a few pounds per square inch and would not work if the
device were used outside of the range intended. If you insist on
using these devices, place an anti-siphon device on all of your
outside hose bibbs.
Do not breach air gaps. Air
gaps are built into sinks and tubs. Do not put a hose on the
faucet and extend it below the flood plain of the sink.
The City's water
system and your house plumbing are nothing more than pipes attached
together that carry a fluid, potable water. When you raise the
elevation at one end or another you make a barometric loop. As
we learned in science class, that same fluid can go back and forth
making a direct cross connection. If the water quality does not
change, there is no problem, however, when that water quality is
contaminated the whole loop is contaminated.
A good rule of thumb to
follow when using potable water in your daily activities is…. would
you drink that same water if the flow was reversed? Chances are you
most likely would not.