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How Much Water Does A Water Leak Waste?

by Bennett Courrier Oaster

Imagine Manhattan under 300 feet of water, not from a flood or rising sea level, but from the 2.1 trillion gallons of water lost from leaky pipes every year. That is nearly 6 billion gallons a day! The majority of leaks are a result of old infrastructure, pressure changes in the water mains, and small household leaks.

Water leaks View image at unsplash.com

Infrastructure leaks

About 14-18% of water treated in the United States is wasted through aging and damaged infrastructure, as well as faulty meters. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave the US a “D” grade for water infrastructure. Let’s take a look at a few cities around the US.

  • Chicago wastes about 22 billion gallons of treated water a year, enough to serve 700,000 individual needs for a whole year.
  • The state of California loses about 228 billion gallons a year, which is more than the city of LA uses in a year. On average the state loses 49 gallons a day for every service connection, and Sacramento loses a whopping 135 gallons per connection.
  • In 2013 San Francisco experienced over 100 water main breaks and New York averages over 400 a year.
  • Houston lost 22 billion gallons of water in 2013, 15% of its total water supply
  • According to the EPA we lose about 34 billion gallons of drinking water a day in the United States, about 1/6 of public water systems supply.

Household water waste

Average household leaks can add up to over 10,000 gallons of water a year, enough water to wash 270 loads of laundry. Nationally, household water waste totals over a trillion gallons – or the equivalent of 11 million households’ yearly usage. The most common types of leaks at the household level are worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaky showerheads. 10% of US homes waste over 90 gallons a day just from these small fixtures. Here are some quick facts:

  1. Faucets: 1 drip/second adds up to over 3,000 gallons a year (you can take 180 showers with that water!)
  2. Speaking of showers… a showerhead leaking at 10 drips/minute wastes over 500 gallons a year (that’s 60 loads of dishes)
  3. Old inefficient toilets can water up to 13,000 gallons a year
  4. Irrigation leaks just the size of a dime will waste nearly 6,300 gallons a month

While you can’t fix your city’s infrastructure, you can easily assess your building for potential leaks. Fixing easy leaks can save about 10% on your monthly water bill. Replacing that old toilet with a new efficient toilet could save you upwards of $2,400 over the toilet’s lifetime. There are also a few videos at Home Water Works on detecting and fixing simple household leaks

Whether at the municipal or the household level, we waste a lot of water. Replacing the aging infrastructure on a national level seems a bit overwhelming, but there is a lot you can do to save water and money. Detecting and then fixing simple residential leaks requires little investment and will end up saving you a boatload of money on your water bills.

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