Ditch the drips

I hate the sound. It will come in the middle of the night. All's quiet except for maybe the hooting of an owl or the racket of crickets, and there it is: The toilet starts running. It's been leaking and the tank is filling.

Time again to make a few repairs.

A pain, to be sure, but important. Across the country, household water leaks waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water a year and can add up to 12 percent to a residential water bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

It's those running toilets, those dripping faucets, those leaking hoses. If you think they don't add up, place a glass under a dripping faucet and see how long it takes to fill.

So this week, the EPA has declared it Fix a Week Leak. Not exactly a Hallmark event, but probably one you should pay attention to all the same.

Here's a quick check from the EPA: If you live in a household of four and your water bills show usage of more than 12,000 gallons, you probably have a leak. (Or, possibly, a teenager who likes showers.)

The EPA's tips: 

 Check for leaks. Silent toilet leaks can be found by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank and seeing if color appears in the bowl before you flush. Don’t forget to check irrigation systems and spigots, too.

 Twist and tighten pipe connections. To save even more water without a noticeable difference in flow, twist on a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator or showerhead.

 Replace the fixture if necessary. Look for the WaterSense label when replacing plumbing fixtures, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models.

More information on Fix a Leak Week: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak  It's got lots of interesting data.

More information on WaterSense, an EPA-sponsored program offering people simple ways to use less water: http://www.epa.gov/watersense