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Seek a Leak
Received a high water bill? It is important to remember - not all high usage is the result of a leak.

The first step to ruling out a leak is to carefully note the meter-reading dates* listed on the bill. (*Note: There is often a delay of a month or more between the period when the water was used until the bill is actually received.)

Next, determine whether there were any activities during that period that would be expected to cause increased water usage. Small increases can sometimes be the result of pressure-washing, hoses left running, or holiday house-guests. On the other hand, large increases would be expected as a result of new sod establishment, or pool cleaning/refilling.

If none of these possibilities are accounting for your period of higher usage, the following simple DIY leak tests will help you check for some commonly encountered problems.

Check the Meter's Flow Indicator

Typically, the water meter is located in the front yard, near the street or sidewalk. (You may need a screwdriver, or similar device to assist with removal of the meter box lid.) Have a pencil or pen and some paper handy.

Carefully remove the meter-box lid, and set it aside. Then flip the meter lens cap to expose the meter face. (Dirt may need to be removed to expose the meter dial.)

Most meter faces have a flow indicator (small, red or black in color, triangular or snowflake in shape). If there is no water being used at the time of inspection, the flow indicator should be 100% stationary. If the flow indicator is turning, continue directly to Step #4 below. (This is a good indication that there may* be a leak somewhere in or around your dwelling.)

 Verify the Reading

Not all leaks are big and clearly noticeable. However, even a small or intermittent leak can add noticeably to your water bill. If the meter does not have a flow indicator -or- the flow indicator is not moving, continue with these steps to further evaluate the situation:

1. Copy down the numbers (from left to right) on the meter’s gallons register.

Meter - old styleMeter - new style

Above: Note the two different styles of residential meters found throughout Pasco County. Both meters have a "flow indicator" to help identify minor leaks.

(Left) The older style of meter relies on the large red needle to count single gallons, while the "stationary zero" functions as a placeholder. A full sweep around the face = 10 gallons. For residential meters with a needle and a "stationary zero", you must include the stationary zero in your reading. (Otherwise, your reading will be too low by a factor of 10x!) The current reading on the left meter is therefore = 239,537 gallons. 

(Right) The newer style of meter does not have the red needle to count single gallons. Instead, the "odometer" reading extends to a decimal place. Therefore, the meter on the right is showing 0.1 gallon of usage. (Note: Pictures may not display properly on mobile devices.)

2. Do not use any water for a period of two (2) hours (or overnight).

3. Take another reading from your meter’s gallons register after the two (2) hour testing period, and compare it to the first reading. If the reading is higher, there may* be a water leak. (*Important note: Some household systems such as water softeners and sprinklers can use large amounts of water automatically, as part of normal operation. Therefore, a higher reading does not always indicate a leak.)

4. To help pinpoint the usage source as inside -or- outside the dwelling, close the house valve (generally located on an outside wall where the waterline enters the dwelling, or near the water heater). If the meter continues to show usage after the house valve has been shut, the issue is likely outside the dwelling (Examples could include leaks in the service line that leads from the meter to the dwelling, backflow prevention devices, spigots, or sprinkler lines, etc...)  If the meter does not move after closing the house valve, the issue may be inside the dwelling. (Examples could include softeners, toilets, etc...) Use a process of elimination with various valves to isolate the issue.

Toilet "Dye-Test"

Many toilet leaks are silent. This simple "dye-test" can help to reveal a hidden leak:

Put some food coloring in the tank of all toilets. Do not use them for twenty minutes. Check the toilet bowls after twenty minutes to see if any color has seeped into the bowl. If the water in the bowl has color in it, the toilet's flapper is leaking. For more information on repairing toilet flappers, visit

Note: After the test is complete, be sure to flush any remaining dyed water to avoid toilet discoloration.
toilet dye test

For more information on troubleshooting toilet issues, visit our "Water Conservation in the Bathroom" page.

Water Softener

Are you adding more salt than usual?  If yes, the water softener may be generating more often than it should. Check the settings.

When softener valves "stick" in regeneration mode, it can waste hundreds of gallons... per hour! The effect is similar to leaving a hose running non-stop, and can result in a huge water bill. If your softener begins regenerating constantly, place it into "bypass" mode until it can be serviced.

Sprinkler System

Even when working properly, sprinklers can use more than 1,000 gallons per hour they run.  Even when used efficiently, sprinklers typically will account for more than half of the typical Floridian's water bill. Broken heads and pipe leaks can certainly cause that usage to increase. Be sure to test-run the system at least once per season to check for leaks and misdirected sprays. Very low pressure within a zone can sometimes be an indication of hidden or underground leaks.

leaking rotorspray leak

While not technically a leak, timer programming issues are surprisingly frequently identified as the cause for unexpected high usage. For instance, accidentally programming multiple start-times can suddenly cause the sprinkler's usage to double, triple, or worse... Programming errors are often very easy to overlook, and as a result, they are actually surprisingly common. Because over-watering can encourage weeds, pests, and turf disease, this type of common mistake doesn't just waste water (and money), it can even harm the lawn you're trying to keep green. For more information, please visit the "Programming Problems" section of our Lawns and Irrigation page.

Sprinkler controller


Have you repaired anything in the past three months? If “yes”, what was fixed, and on what date? Compare the date of repair to the read-dates on your water bills. Because of the typical delay between water usage and receiving the bill, there can be a month or more from the period when a repair was made until the effect will be seen on the bill.

Identified and repaired a leak?
For Pasco County Utilities' customers, it pays to fix leaks. See if you qualify for Pasco County Utilities’ leak adjustment program. Criteria and required forms can be found online under Documents and Forms.

Fix it for Less

SWFWMD explains how to "Fix It For Less!"