Leaks at homes, apartments, commercial properties, and landscapes can result in thousands of gallons of wasted water, bill increases, and potential property damage if not addressed promptly. There are steps residents and businesses can take to reduce the chance of wasteful indoor and outdoor leaks. Routine maintenance and repairs can add up to savings on your water bill and help conserve our precious water supplies.
The Leak Alert Program sends automated notifications to single family homes, multi-family properties with two to five dwelling units, and irrigation accounts.
Meter transmission units allow the SFPUC and our customers to access timely and accurate information about water use. Using the information available to us through hourly water consumption data from our automated meter reading system, we notify the water account holder, property owner, and occupant (if not the same person) of residential single-family homes and two to five unit multi-family properties, and sites that have irrigation meters when they have three days of non-stop, 24/7 water use, which could mean they have a plumbing leak. For multi-family properties with four or five dwelling units, in addition to the three days of nonstop water use, we also screen for water use that has exceeded the property's average use for the past 90 days by 50 percent or more. Please review the frequently asked questions below to learn more about the program and actions you can take.
We send leak alerts by email, mobile phone text, phone call, and letter, depending on the contact information we have on file in our billing system. Please update account contact information through our online My Account platform. If you haven't yet registered to use My Account, sign up is simple but requires having a copy of your water bill to refer to, or knowing your account number. If you don't have a copy of your bill and don't know your water account number, contact our Customer Service Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 551-3000 for assistance.
Why did I receive a leak alert?
Our leak alert is a courtesy to inform you that the water meter at your home or multi-family property has recorded continuous water usage of at least 7.5 gallons per hour every hour over a monitored three-day period. Typically, there are periods during the day or night, often when residents are sleeping, when water fixtures and irrigation systems would not be running and no water use is occurring. Therefore, it is unusual for the meter in a home, small multi-family building, or property with an irrigation account to register usage continuously for consecutive 24-hour periods and this may indicate a leak or a tap, hose bib, or valve accidentally left on. You are advised to check and fix potential leaks or other causes of high water use. While our alerts and My Account platform can help inform you if constant usage is occurring, it is the customer's responsibility to find and address leaks at their property.
How was the continuous usage identified?
The meter transmission unit at your property provides us with information on hourly water usage. The meter readings we receive identify every cubic foot of water used each hour (one cubic foot is equal to approximately 7 ½ gallons).
If our data shows hourly water usage of at least one cubic foot every hour for a 3-day reporting period, we will notify the water account holder, property owner, and occupant (if not the same person) by email, mobile phone text, phone call, and letter, for all methods we have current contact information on file. Our alerts will indicate the dates and amounts of continuous usage. We will notify you up to three times. Our first contact will be shortly after we first detect three days of nonstop water use, a second time about two weeks later if nonstop use is still occurring regularly, and a third time about two months later if nonstop use is still ongoing. Single family and multi-family homes with two to five dwelling units may also be issued a final courtesy notice in the form of a door hanger if nonstop use is continuing after 10 weeks.
Does this mean I have a leak?
Continuous usage may indicate your property has a plumbing or irrigation system leak or that a tap or hose bib was left running. Select standard toilet repair parts are provided free from the SFPUC and are available to pick up at our Customer Service counter (located at 525 Golden Gate Avenue) during business hours Monday – Friday. Residential customers with toilets installed before 1994 may also be eligible for a free new toilet, including installation, through our Plumbing Fixture Replacement Program (PREP). In addition to visually inspecting plumbing fixtures, other ways to help detect leaks include:
Register or log on to My Account to view your household’s or property's hourly, daily, weekly and monthly water use. Sudden increases in water use could mean a plumbing or irrigation system leak has developed or some other unusual water use is occurring. If My Account shows that your hourly water usage never went to zero over the last three days, it could indicate you have an ongoing leak.
You may also request a free inspection by the SFPUC that will include performing a manual read of the water meter while all water fixtures and irrigation systems are turned off, which can help identify silent leaks that could occur from breaks in the main water supply line leading into your home.
Do I need to contact the SFPUC if I receive a leak alert?
Our leak alerts are issued as a courtesy. You do not need to contact us if you receive one unless you would like to be opted out of receiving certain methods of notification, such as mobile phone text or any such notices in the future. Use the resources on our website and My Account for guidance on how to identify the most common types of leaks that may be occurring around your home, multi-family property, or landscape. If you suspect you have a leak but cannot repair it, please contact a plumber or irrigation expert. Customers are responsible for repairing leaks on their property. Routine water-fixture and irrigation system maintenance and repairs can help prevent leaks and avoid wasted water and money.
How much water could I be wasting?
For a general estimate, multiply the continuous usage rate noted on our leak alert by 24 hours to calculate how much water is being wasted through constant usage in a single day. Then multiply this daily amount by the number of days nonstop usage has been occurring at your property. Our leak alert will note when constant usage started, or you can check hourly use on My Account and scroll back through days to see how long constant hourly use occurred. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that ten percent of U.S. homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. A leaking toilet can waste upward of 3,000 gallons of water in just a few days, while a faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
The reporting tools available on My Account can help you see hourly, daily, monthly and seasonal patterns in your water use, and spot unusual increases in water usage that could be attributed to a leak.
My property has a leak, but I didn't receive a courtesy alert in any format (email, text, phone call, or letter) from the SFPUC.
To avoid sending too many alerts and notifying people about situations that might not be leaks, we send courtesy alerts to single family properties, and since September 2018, to small multi-family buildings with up to five dwelling units, after three days of nonstop water use that is 7.5 gallons or more per hour. Some properties may experience intermittent leaks in toilets, irrigation systems, and other plumbing fixtures that last a few hours or only a day or two at a time, which would not trigger a courtesy alert from the SFPUC. In particular, toilets often run intermittently as flappers and fill valves age, and we advise residents to check and replace internal parts before occasional leaks become constant. Likewise, irrigation leaks may occur only when the system is on and never reach the three days of constant use threshold. We recommend visually checking irrigation systems periodically to check for problems. A small number of multi-family properties and about one third of irrigation accounts have a particular type of 1.5-inch or 2-inch diameter meter that only registers when water use reaches 75 gallons an hour, and because of this would not receive an SFPUC courtesy alert for constant usage under 75 gallons an hour. If none of these conditions apply, and you believe your property experienced three or more days of nonstop water use and you didn't receive a courtesy alert from the SFPUC, check that your contact information on file with us is up to date. You can do this online through My Account, by mail (see directions on your bill), by email to email@example.com, or by phone at (415) 551-3000.
How can I use hourly data on My Account to identify possible leaks or high or unusual water use?
Regularly checking your daily and hourly water use can help you understand what is typical for your property and what may be unusual and reflect potential leaks, taps or equipment inadvertently left on, or other problems. To best assess your property’s water use trends, we recommend you check your daily and hourly water use at least monthly, and look at data over at least a two-week period. Make a note of the days and times your property may engage in the following water use activities and consider these when you review your daily and hourly usage: irrigating landscapes, filling hot tubs and pools, indoor and outdoor cleaning, laundry, and any other water-intensive practices that may be unique to your site. Consider also if there have been any changes in occupancy in your property or periods of no or reduced occupancy. For single family and small multi-family properties, water use that never goes to zero during any hour within a 24-hour period may indicate there is a leak or the irrigation system or a tap was left running. For any property type, a sudden spike in hourly and daily use that can't be explained by changes in occupancy, scheduled irrigation, or other specific activities may also indicate a leak or running or faulty equipment.
I am part of a business/organization that received a leak alert, and do not directly maintain the irrigation/landscape on the property. What are my next steps?
If you are a business or organization and received a leak alert from us, we encourage you to contact the property landscape contractor to assist in reviewing the irrigation system for leaks by inspecting irrigation valves, identifying missing or broken sprinkler heads, and flagging muddy or wet areas in the landscape along the irrigation lines that may be cracked or ruptured. You may also schedule a free landscape irrigation assessment by the SFPUC that could also help you identify leaks and ways to save water. A follow up report of our findings pointing out ways to improve your irrigation system efficiency will also be provided to you. Registering to our online MyAccount system can help in monitoring the site's water use over time. Remember while leaks can happen to anyone, it is your responsibility to resolve leaks in your property in a timely manner.
Repairing or replacing a leaky faucet can save hundreds of gallons per month. Faucet leaks commonly occur from worn parts or from loose water supply connections. Leaks may be obvious, such as a persistent drip, or more inconspicuous, such as a leak under the sink. While a persistent drip may be an annoyance, a hidden leak can cause water damage to walls if not identified early on. Either way, please do not ignore these leak signs!
Keep Your Faucet from Leaking While Delivering Maximum Performance
Check for leaks and provide regular maintenance, including:
- Replacing worn fittings, washers and gaskets inside the faucet. Depending on the manufacturer many types of faucets require new o-rings, cartridges, or ceramic discs.
- Tightening the water supply tubing at the fittings. Make sure the fittings are secured tightly at the wall and faucet. If this does not prevent more leaking, the water supply tubing may need to be replaced.
- Removing the aerator and soaking it in vinegar to remove mineral buildup; recommended once a year.
Order the free Practical Plumbing Handbook
For more information on faucet replacement parts and detailed repair instructions, call (415) 551-4730 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order the Practical Plumbing Handbook – a do-it-yourself guide to water-saving plumbing fixture maintenance.
If you think you have a more serious leak or problem, please contact a plumbing professional. Or, if you’re a renter, be sure to report any suspected leaks to your landlord or property manager.
Free, Efficient Faucet Aerators
If you do not have aerators on your faucet, you may be using more water than you need! These small devices help make an existing faucet more efficient by adjusting the water flow. Aerators attach to the spout of the faucet and mix air and water to provide a smooth flow of water without sacrificing performance. We can provide customers with free efficient faucet aerators, available for pick-up at the customer service office or by participating in a free in-home Water-Wise Evaluation.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with manufacturers to make it easier to identify water efficient fixtures, just look for products with the WaterSense® logo to save money and water!
A water bill can double or even triple in the summer and early fall months due to overirrigating your landscape and irrigation system leaks. If you're irrigating in the late evening or early morning, it's difficult to observe broken irrigation pipes and common maintenance issues in your system. Broken or missing sprinkler heads, leaking valves, and cracked distribution lines contribute to excess runoff, deteriorate the health of your landscape, and can lead to an increase in your water bill!
Common Irrigation System Leaks
Broken irrigation pipes, leaking valves, and malfunctioning backflow devices can all lead to constant irrigation system leaks.
- Broken Irrigation Pipes: A cracked or broken irrigation lateral or pipe can run constantly and waste thousands of gallons of water a day. To find a broken irrigation pipe, inspect the area between your water meter and irrigation valves looking for wet or muddy areas. These areas may indicate an underground pipe leak.
- Leaking Irrigation Valves: Over time, irrigation solenoid valves can deteriorate and fail to seal properly, allowing constant water flow through your irrigation system. Check to see if valves are functioning properly by activating each of them and visually inspecting they open and close correctly.
- Malfunctioning Backflow Device: Contact a backflow device professional to inspect your system's backflow device to ensure it is operating correctly.
Best Practices for Maintaining your Irrigation System
- Have your irrigation system checked at least seasonally by operating each zone to identify inefficiencies such as broken, misaligned, or clogged sprinkler heads and to check for leaks at the irrigation valves. An observer is the most important part of any efficient irrigation system. Performing simple and immediate repairs are the quickest way to maintaining your system's efficiency, preventing water waste, and prolonging the useful life of your irrigation system.
- Check your irrigation controller schedule to ensure that it is set to properly water your landscape. Consider your plant and landscape water needs when setting your irrigation schedule. Look for signs such as plant wilting or discoloration and examine soil moisture often to identify if the landscape is being watered efficiently.
- Adjust sprinklers to water the landscape, not the concrete or asphalt. Irrigation overspray is a common water waste in the landscape.
- Irrigation overspray is a prohibited water waste activity.Water between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to reduce evaporation and water loss from windy conditions.
- Check the soil moisture at various points throughout your landscape after each irrigation schedule adjustment to determine if it is being over- or under-watered and adjust the schedule accordingly.
- Connect a weather station or rain sensor to your irrigation controller to better meet the water demands of your landscape during dry spells, cloudy days, or storm events.
- Harness the power of your irrigation controller by utilizing the percent-adjust feature which allows you to turn the entire irrigation system up or down by percentages, instead of reprogramming each individual station.
- Consider removing any unused turf and replace with San Francisco climate-appropriate plants that require little or no irrigation at all! For a list of over 2,000 plants and their water use ranking (low, moderate or high) check out the San Francisco Plant Water Use List. Large irrigated landscapes over one half-acre may be eligible for detailed technical evaluations and grant funds for water-saving irrigation and landscape retrofits.
The average household could save more than 2,300 gallons per year by installing a water-efficient showerhead. Since these water savings will reduce demands on water heaters, households will also save energy.
Simple Fixes for a Leaky Showerhead
Shower leaks commonly occur where the showerhead attaches to the shower pipe. This type of leak may cause water to drip or spray from the back of the showerhead. Here are some simple ways to keep your showerhead from leaking, while delivering maximum performance:
- Remove the showerhead and soak it in vinegar to remove mineral buildup; recommended once a year.
- Replace the washer or “O” ring inside the showerhead to create a tighter connection.
- Apply Teflon tape or plumbers putty to the thread of the shower pipe stem before reinstalling the showerhead to prevent leaks
Claim your free Showerhead
New and improved showerheads deliver great performance at efficient flow rates of 1.5 gallons per minute or less while saving thousands of gallons of water per year (compared to 2.5 gallons per minute). Our free showerheads meet EPA WaterSense® standards and can be claimed by visiting SFPUC Customer Service to or by scheduling a Water-Wise Evaluation.
As a general rule, showerheads that were manufactured and installed before 1994 should be replaced. Older models could be using more than three times the amount of water.
If you think you have a more serious leak, contact a plumbing professional. Or, if you’re a renter, report any suspected leaks to your landlord or property manager.
The Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with manufacturers to make it easier to identify water efficient fixtures, just look for products with the WaterSense® logo to save money and water!
Water Meter Plumbing Leak
Water use is measured by a meter which is usually located on the sidewalk in front of your home.
New automated water meters are now in place for nearly all of San Francisco’s 178,000 water accounts. This new technology transmits hourly water use data to our billing system by wireless network. For properties with automated water meters installed, customers now have easy online access to bill and water use information with our customer website, My Account.
Registered My Account users can also download detailed daily and monthly water use reports. This accurate and frequent water usage information allows you to monitor use and identify possible leaks faster than was possible with the previously used manually-read meters by reviewing your hourly water usage.
In order to prevent personal injury and damage to SFPUC equipment, water meters should only be accessed by skilled SFPUC field staff. To request a courtesy site visit from an SFPUC representative contact our Customer Care Center at (415) 551-3000. This site visit will include a check of your water meter as well as additional information about how the meter registers and transmits water usage information.
Hidden Plumbing Leaks
There are many causes for hidden plumbing leaks. If you can’t see dripping or a constant stream coming from a particular fixture, a good place to start looking is your toilets, the most common household leak. We can help you learn more about identifying leaks and provide standard toilet repair parts during a free Water-Wise Evaluation.
Water Meter CheckFor simple, do-it-yourself instructions on repairs for household plumbing fixtures call (415) 551-3000 or email email@example.com to order the Practical Plumbing Handbook.
When do I need to call a plumber?
- When making repairs to leaks between the meter and the home or in the water supply line
- If you suspect leaking on a large appliance such as the water heater or dishwasher
- If you think you might have a blind leak and need help addressing it immediately, call a plumber right away.