How to check for water leaks

Putting blue food dye in the toilet cistern

Yikes, the water bill just arrived and it's more of a William than a 'bill'! Avoid a nasty surprise. Learn how to check for leaks and what to do when you find a leak.

Water leaks waste money and water

Water leaks are a big nuisance that can cost a lot of money if not found early. Many leaks occur when water pipes crack under the ground, in walls and underneath concrete and driveways, which makes them difficult to find.

These hidden (or concealed) leaks can waste thousands of litres of water a day and very often go unnoticed, until you suddenly get a much larger bill and significant water damage to your property.

You can avoid a nasty surprise by following our steps for:

  1. how to check for leaks
  2. what to do when you find a leak
  3. when a concealed leak is repaired.
  4. Don't let this happen to you

Here are some real-life examples of what can happen when you have a hidden (or concealed) leak:

  • A Body Corporate with 98 sub-metered units had a concealed leak underground outside one of the units. Plumbing repairs cost $2800, bill increase from a few hundred dollars average per quarter to $20,000.
  • Residential home owner had a concealed leak at the side of the house. Bill increase from $450 average per quarter to $2500.
  • Residential unit owner had a concealed leak underneath a concrete driveway which was not visible above ground. Plumbing repairs cost $1300, bill increase from $250 average to $8800.

Step 1. How to check for leaks...

Check for a hidden (concealed) leak

Turn off all taps, the washing machine, dishwasher and irrigation at your property.

Read your water meter and write down or take a photo of the numbers (including the red numbers, which indicate litres). Make sure you leave the water meter tap on. 

Wait at least one hour before reading your water meter again - remember not to use any water, even to flush the toilet during this time. 

If the reading has changed (last numbers or dial on the water meter), you may have a water leak. Please contact a licensed plumber to investigate.

Please note: the numbers on a water meter will only move if water is being drawn through it, either by something on your property (hose, washing machine, plumbed in fridges, dishwashers, etc.) or if there is a leak.

Check for a toilet leak

Toilet cistern leaks are common and can be easily checked by following these steps:

Pour a few drops of food colouring into the toilet cistern (just enough to colour the water slightly).

Don't flush - wait. If colour appears in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.

Flush as soon as the test has been completed to clear the food colouring.  It does not stain ceramic toilet bowls.

Don't want to use food colouring? Try placing a sheet of dry toilet paper at the back of the toilet bowl, above the water line. It should stay dry unless there is water trickling down the back of the bowl, indicating a leaking toilet.

Check for other leaks

  1. Check your property for visible water leaks from taps, toilets and showers.
  2. Check irrigation i.e. ensure all caps/jets are on, no leaks in the system.
  3. Check water tanks are not topped up automatically with town water, check for faulty solenoids/internal parts if connected to town water.
  4. Ensure all external and internal taps and showers are fully turned off.
  5. Check your plumbed in fridge is not leaking.
  6. Check hot water systems are not leaking.
  7. During renovations or property maintenance, make sure to replace taps, showers and toilets with water-efficient WELS rated items.

Step 2. What to do when you find a leak

Plumber fixing water leak in pipe underground

Leaks on your property

Please contact a licensed plumber to investigate as soon as possible.

  • All leaks, including concealed leaks, on private property are the property owner’s responsibility to investigate and repair. 
  • All water pipes and fittings from the water meter on to private property are the property owner's responsibility to maintain.
  • To stop water being wasted on your property if you have a leak you can temporarily turn the stop tap off at your water meter. 
  • Just make sure this won't damage appliances such as your hot water system.

Leaks at the meter

You could have a leak at the meter or around the meter if you notice water filling the meter box or soggy ground surrounding the meter.

If your meter box is full of water please call us on 1300 086 489.

If you have soggy ground around your meter and your meter is not ticking over then the leak is likely on our infrastructure. Please call us on 1300 086 489.

If you have soggy ground around your meter and your meter is ticking over then water is being drawn through the meter and the leak is on your side of the meter. Please call a local licensed plumber to investigate.  

Leaks on the road or public property

calling to report a leak

If you notice a leak on public property, such as water leaking on the road or footpath, or a burst water main, please call us on 1300 086 489 as soon as possible to report it (24/7).

We may need to carry out emergency repairs.

This article was posted to the Unity Water website

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