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How to tell if you’ve got a water leak and what to do if you’ve got one

24 September

Water leaks can be costly and cause serious damage

We all know that water leaks can cause some serious damage in and outside the home, and they can be pretty costly to boot. Prevention, detection and quick correction are your best course of action in dealing with water leaks.

Prevention and detection

The prevention and/or early detection of water leaks can save you money, serious damage, headaches and frustrations and will also help to conserve our precious water resources.

We advise you to check your water meter monthly to monitor it and understand how much water you normally use – get the benchmark in both usage and cost so you know what’s normal for you and your household.

Often the first sign of a leak is a noticeable increase in your usual water usage and a higher than normal water bill. So, don’t ignore that red flag.

How much water do you think a slowly dripping tap can waste in a year? 1,000 litres? 5,000 litres? 7,000 litres? NOPE. One drippy tap can waste 9,000 litres of water. Even worse, a toilet with a visible leak can waste in excess of 60,000 litres!

In a drought-sensitive land like ours, this kind of water waste is almost criminal.

Water Leaking From External Tap

Queensland government’s advice

We agree with the Queensland government’s advice: Make sure you turn all your taps off properly; check for leaks and repair taps, and keep all water fittings and equipment in good condition.”

They also clearly state that “As a landowner, it is your responsibility to install and maintain any plumbing that is on your property (i.e. pipes and fittings past the water meter connection point). This includes a responsibility to identify and fix any leaks on your property.”

Think you may have an internal water leak in your home? Here are some signs to look for…

  1. Unexplained damp walls, ceilings, floors or wet spots on carpets
  2. Dripping, running or trickling noises in the walls or ceilings
  3. The presence of mould – it thrives in moist humid conditions on it can be seen quite readily on surfaces that are constantly wet
  4. A musty smell caused by either visible or invisible mould (behind an appliance or inside the wall cavity for example)
  5. Faulty or broken appliances (running toilets, dripping taps, worn hoses etc)
  6. A noticeable drop in your water pressure
  7. An increase in water usage when your routines have remained the same
  8. Obvious signs of water damage to cabinets and cupboards like laminate bubbling and lifting or has noticeable soft spots.

Maybe your leak is not an inside job. Perhaps it’s outside of the home itself and occurring on the property near the house or closer to the water connection point.

Signs you may have a possible concealed/underground leak on your property

  1. You may have received a high consumption notice from the council or you notice considerably higher than average consumption when your regular water usage routine has remained unchanged
  2. You may have noticed a greener-than-usual patch of lawn on your property
  3. There’s evidence of sudden cracks or potholes in pavement or slabs surrounding the house or elsewhere on the property
  4. There are obvious signs of water pooling (note: water doesn’t always surface where the leak is. It can travel along pipes until it finds a spot where it can penetrate the ground easily, this can be meters away.)

Suspect a leak? We recommend the following:

  • First try to identify any obvious leakage causes – dripping taps, running appliances, loose fittings, damaged pipes, etc.
  • Turn off all taps and any appliances that use water inside and outside the home
  • Instruct household members to refrain from using them
  • Take a meter reading.
  • Wait for an hour or two and then take another reading to determine if there’s a change in usage even though you’ve stopped your usage (note: ensure you leave the water ON at the meter)
  • Take another reading and if the reading has changed, there may be a leak that requires further investigation

How to read your water meter

Hands up if you’ve never read your water meter? Keep it up if you don’t even know where it is. That’s okay, there’s no judgement here.

To find it, your meter is almost always located towards the front of the property, either near the left or right boundary.

Once you’ve located it, lift the lid to read the dial (take care as the meter box can be home to spiders, snakes and other creepy crawlies)

Once you’ve got a clear view, write down all the numbers that you see.

This helpful City of Gold Coast video shows you exactly how to read your water meter and check for leaks.

You’ve determined that, yep, you’ve got yourself a leak – what then?

What are your next steps?

  1. Call Gold Coast Plumbing Company, of course!
  2. We will ask you to tell us what you’ve learned about your leak so far.
  3. We will arrange a leak detection specialist to come out and investigate.
  4. Once the investigation is complete, we will then provide an upfront price for the leak repair. This will depend on:
    1. The depth of the leak
    2. Whether it is under grass, tiles or concrete
    3. The location of the leak (tiered garden beds, difficult to access, etc.)
  5. They will pinpoint the leak and mark the location on the ground.
  6. We carry out the repair for you
  7. Upon completion of the repair, we provide you with an invoice for the work,
  8. You may then be able to send to the council to apply for water relief, if applicable*

NOTE: In some instances, it is wiser and more economical to install a replacement water line, instead of repairing the leak.

*contact GCCC to see if you are eligible; you will need to lodge a form with the council.

Possible water relief from council

The City of Gold Coast may provide water relief for undetectable, concealed leaks if they are fixed by a licensed plumber.

See the details can be found on the GCCC website or by contacting the council on 1300 000 928

Who’s responsible for what when it comes to water leaks?

According to Urban Utilities, here on the Gold Coast, they state that:

The property owner is responsible for:

  • All pipework within the property boundary including fixtures, fittings and water tanks
  • All pipework leading from the property up to and including the connection point to the water meter. This may be located outside your property boundary e.g. the council footpath or common property.
  • The cost of water associated with any leaks at your property up to the connection point of the water meter
  • Arranging and paying for a licensed plumber to repair your pipework.
  • If a leak is detected in these pipes, please call a plumber to repair them.

Utilities are responsible for:

  • The water meter
  • The pipes from the water meter that connects to the water main.

What do you know about H2O?

Some fascinating water facts …

Freshwater is the most precious resource on Earth and we use it in almost everything we do. While water covers three-quarters of our Earth’s surface, freshwater only makes up 1% and that’s meant to provide for us all.

Did you know?

  • We use about 400 billion gallons of water every day on Earth.
  • Most of the world’s usable freshwater is groundwater.
  • Australian households are terrible at conserving water.
  • The global study by international water experts Hoekstra and Chapagain found that Australian households held the worst record for water consumption. On average, each Australian uses 341,000 litres of water each year – that’s around 8 backyard swimming pools! Some of the most carefree water users on the planet, and we live on the driest continents!
  • The closest to us is Canada in a distant second with 279,000 litres per year. The Americans use 217,000 litres per person, the Chinese 26,000 and Bangladesh just 16,000 litres (half a backyard pool). The world average is 57,000 litres.
  • About 20% of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water.
  • Bottled water can be up to 1000 times more expensive than tap water and it may not be as safe.
  • If present consumption patterns continue, 2 out of every 3 people will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025.
  • The overall amount of water on the planet has remained about the same for over 2 billion years.
  • Freshwater animals are disappearing five times faster than land animals.
  • Approximately 25,700 litres of water is required to grow a day’s food for a family of four.
  • Spending 3 minutes less a day under the average shower will save 13,140 litres of water a year.
  • A cow can drink as much as 90 litres of water per day while only producing a measly 12 litres of milk.

How much water does it take to produce some of our favourite foods?

An apple = 70 litresCup of coffee = 140 litres
A glass of beer = 75 litresA potato = 25 litres
A glass of wine = 120 litresAn egg = 135 litres
Bag of chips = 185 litresGlass of milk = 200 litres
Slice of bread = 40 litresHamburger = 2400 litres
Cup of tea = 35 litresOne kg of beef = 16000 litres

Whether you were surprised by any of this or not, I think we can all agree on how important our water is to our daily lives and that internal or external water leaks are something we don’t want to go unchecked.

We need to protect this precious resource of ours! Whether there is a leak from your washing machine, pipes or hot water system – Gold Coast Plumbing Company can help!

So, If you find yourself suspecting a leak around your place this spring, or any time, please call us on 1300 390 361.