In Minnesota, we have some of the cleanest public water supplies in the nation. However, Minnesota’s thirst for this precious resource is outpacing nature’s ability to replace it. It is safe to say that water conservation is more important than ever.
There are lots of ways to use less water. Start by checking your home for leaks, as a part of Fix a Leak Week (it’s this week!). Household water leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of water and can increase your water bill by over 10 percent. Here’s some more tips from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Check for leaks using the water meter
You can use your water meter to do a quick check for water leaks. First, turn off all water-using appliances, including showers, sinks, washing machines, dishwashers, automatic ice-makers, and hoses. Next, find your water meter. Most meters are located in the basement or a utility room.
To check for leaks, look for the “leak indicator.” On many meters, this is a little red or black disc. If it is spinning, you have a leak. If you have a digital meter, start by shining a flash light on the sensor to turn on the LCD panel. Then look for a small faucet icon. If the faucet is there, you have a leak. If you do not see the faucet icon, you do not have a leak.
Investigate the toilet
Another way to check for leaks is to go straight to the likely culprit–the toilet. Toilets leaks are common and waste hundreds of gallons of water each day.
Just add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring or a non-toxic dye tablet into the toilet tank.* Wait 20 minutes without flushing, and then check the bowl. If there is color in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.
Most toilet leaks are easy to fix. Watch this how-to video, which will help you identify the source of the leak and give you good tips for fixing it (dual-flush toilet owners: watch this video). Worn-out flappers are often the cause. Remove the flapper and take it to the hardware store so the staff can help you find the best replacement. If you know the make and model number of your toilet, bring that information as well. After fixing the flapper, use food coloring or a second dye tablet to see if you’ve fixed the leak.
*The MPCA is offering free toilet leak-detection tablets to Minnesota households, while supplies last. You can order your packet online, call 651-757-2999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other water-saving actions
Once you’ve fixed your leaks, you are on your way to saving even more water. You can also:
• Use the dishwasher and only run full loads.
• Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.
• Take shorter showers. Can you do 5 minutes or less per person?
• Use low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads. The WaterSense label can help you identify water-saving products.
Look for rebates and discount programs that can help you pay for water-saving upgrades. Start by asking your city, natural gas provider, and water supplier whether they have a program. Look at your bill if you are unsure who supplies your gas or water. Some programs are listed in the WaterSense rebate finder. Other Minnesota programs include:
• CenterPoint Energy offers free, low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators to its residential natural gas heating customers in Minnesota.
• The Home Energy Squad will come to eligible homes to assess and install energy-saving items (including new shower heads and aerators). You pay for the parts, but the labor is free.