When you live in an apartment, you’re always at the mercy of someone else when an unexpected maintenance issue pops up. In my case, this individual always looks like he belongs on Duck Dynasty and rarely agrees that my problem needs his attention this week. I try not to be pesky with my maintenance requests – I know these people are busy! – but I also know household leaks can waste more than one trillion gallons of water annually, nationwide, and I am super motivated to minimize that number. (More fascinating leak facts)
The last summer I lived in Phoenix, my kitchen faucet developed an erratic drip; sometimes slow enough to go unnoticed for hours, sometimes fast enough to pass for Chinese water torture. Being a conservation geek, of course I measured it, and we were losing three to five gallons a day just from this measly drip! My husband couldn’t hear it and visitors never noticed, so I could have ignored it, but knowingly wasting 100-150 gallons a month (in the desert!) seemed absolutely outrageous to me. Imagine how many people actually ignore their quiet drips and it adds up to that trillion gallons quickly.
My husband was working from home then, so I asked him to report the drip to our maintenance department. Weeks later, the faucet was still dripping. I asked if the maintenance guy had come to look at it yet. Yes, he had come and not found any problem. That didn’t make any sense to me, so my husband showed me the maintenance report. “Tenant claims sink is leaking. Found no leak or evidence of leak.” Aha! No wonder it was still dripping – he was looking for a leaking pipe underneath the sink. I pointed out that the problem was with the faucet, not the pipes, and my husband submitted a second request.
After a few more weeks of dripping, I asked again if the maintenance guy had ever stopped by. Again, yes he had been there and said nothing was wrong with our sink. Again, my husband showed me the maintenance form. Again, the light bulb went on immediately. “Tenant claims faucet is leaking, NOT pipes. Still no evidence of leak anywhere.”
The maintenance guy had checked all around the faucet knobs and found no water damage or escape route. My husband said this poor man was just as aggravated as we were, by this point, not to mention he thought we were delusional. Who has an imaginary sink leak? But after two miscommunications, we were prepared to report this issue in a way that would finally get a solution. OUR FAUCET DRIPS!
The third time he came, the maintenance guy actually repaired the problem that had been lost in translation for months. But not without a stern “Why didn’t you just say it dripped, the first time?” I don’t know, because we’re young and naive? Why did you move my drip measuring device every time you came to check it out and never attempt to stop the drip? I think we all learned our lesson. Sometimes we all speak the language and still we don’t understand each other. At least we were lucky to have a maintenance guy who came to inspect our sink even when he thought we had lost our minds.
As annoying as indoor leaks can be, they’re nothing compared to outdoor leaks. In fact, an irrigation system that has a leak about the thickness of a dime can waste around 6,300 gallons of water per month, according to the EPA! Outdoor leaks are the biggest source of water waste and they often go unnoticed for long periods of time, adding up to massive loss of drinkable, treated water. These leaks are often not caught and fixed until they reach emergency levels because they’re underground, you irrigate at night, or – if you live in an apartment – nobody knows who is responsible for the repair.
As Fix A Leak Week approaches each year (March 17-23, this year), I always wonder how many thousands of gallons are wasted because landlords and maintenance staff lack time, resources, or interest to repair leaks. If you’re a renter, you may feel like leaks are out of your control, but you may never know if your landlord is a water conservation geek until you report those leaks, so give it a try! There are also lots of other things you can do to save water in your apartment.
If you’re a homeowner, you probably didn’t realize you were fortunate to have control over your own plumbing, did you? It may sound inconvenient to track down leaks and repair them, but please take advantage of all the awesome resources your community makes available during Fix A Leak Week and get those leaks under control! A trillion gallons is an insane amount to waste when there are simple ways to detect and fix leaks.