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Water Conservation

Reducing Waste

A water leak can result in thousands of gallons—or more—of water lost before it’s discovered. Even a slow leak can result in thousands of gallons wasted in a single billing cycle. If you don’t periodically test your system for leaks, you might not even be aware of a slow leak.  So it should be no surprise that leak detection is an important part of a comprehensive water conservation program. Follow these 3 simple steps to detect leaks and reduce water waste.

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 Step 1 - Locate your water meter

Your water meter is inside a rectangular concrete box, flush with the ground, and is usually located near the roadway or sidewalk. Watch for spiders, snakes, and bugs when opening the box. It’s good to have a screwdriver handy if you need help getting the cement cover off and to clear debris from around your meter. 

If you need help locating your water meter, contact the GDPUD office at 530-333-4356 ext 107 M-F between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Step 2 - Perform a leak test

To test for leaks in your plumbing system, stop all indoor and outdoor water use activity.  Be sure all devices that could automatically draw water are also stopped temporarily.

Read your meter as you would a car odometer.  There is also needle indicator that measures partial cubic feet. This could be a red or black sweep hand similar to the hands on a clock. Record all gauge values including the fractional value indicated by the sweep hand. 

  • Remember, your meter measures cubic feet and each cubic foot = 7.48 gallons.  A leak of 1/10 of a cubic foot over the course of an hour equates to more than 900 gallons lost during each billing cycle. Carefully and securely replace the concrete cover.

Wait a minimum of one hour (longer if possible), then recheck your water meter. If the sweep hand has moved, or the numbers have changed, water is leaking somewhere in your system. 

Reading Your Water Meter

Each full rotation of the sweep hand indicates one cubic foot, or 7.48 gallons of water. The markings around the outside of the dial indicate tenths and hundredths of a cubic foot.

Many meters have a small triangular leak detector dial that spin when water is flowing. (Finally, some leaks are too slow to move the dial. To check for slow leaks, turn off the water at the meter and wait a few hours. When you slowly turn the water back on, if water rushed to fill the pipes, you may have a leak. 

If you discover a leak, go to the FAQs on how to identify the source of a leak. Have leaks repaired immediately to minimize water loss.

Contact GDPUD immediately, regardless of day or time, at 1-530-333-4356 ext 107 if you suspect a leak on the street side of your water meter.

Step 3 - Implement a regular meter reading program

 Congratulations! You’ve determined your system is leak–free today, but what about next week or next month? The best approach is to track your water usage by reading your meter weekly.  The simplest way to establish this habit is to combine it with an activity that you already do, such as putting out or bringing in trash cans. There’s a good chance that your water meter is close by and would only take a minute or two to read. Also, by recording water usage at approximately the same time each weekly, changes in usage patterns will be more easily identified. If you discover a leak, go to the FAQs on how to identify the source of a leak.

 New water meter technology can send wireless alerts when the meter registers atypical usage patterns. It’s not clear yet how well these systems will work in the wooded and steep areas within our District. Until new meters are available, reading your meter regularly is the best way to be aware of your water usage and to detect leaks early. It can be a rewarding individual hobby or a fun family activity.

Using Water Wisely — Conservation Best Practices

Below are steps we all can take to conserve our fresh water resource: 


  • Limit outdoor watering to two days per week or less. To minimize evaporation, water after sunset and before sunrise.
  • Adjust sprinklers to reduce overspray and runoff.
  • Add 2—3 inches of organic mulch around trees and plants 
  • Consider replacing old sprinkler heads with water efficient models.

Executive order B-37-16, effective May 9, 2016, declares the following practices waste potable water and are now PERMANENTLY prohibited within California:

  • Hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other landscapes;
  • Washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut–off nozzle;
  • Using non–recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature;
  • Watering Lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48 hours after measurable precipitation;
  • Irrigating ornamental turf on public street meridians.


  • Replace old toilets and take advantage of a $100 consumer rebate. Visit to apply
  • Fix leaky toilets, shower heads and faucets Add 3—4 drops of food coloring into your toilet tank. Wait 15 minutes and check your toilet bowl. Any color appearing in the bowl without flushing is an indication of a leak. Visit the h2ouse site for more leak detection tips
  • Use the washing machine for full loads only and install an energy efficient washing machine (look for the energy star rating). Additional information can be found in this Consumer Reports article
  • Reduce!Take 5 minute showers instead of 10 minute showersTurn water off while applying soap (and brushing teeth)Capture water in a bucket while waiting for hot water to reach the shower head; use to water plants

Want to learn more ways to conserve wisely?

  • Many of the above tips are made available from the RWA-sponsored bewatersmart website
  • Explore more great tips at the saveourwater and h2ouse websites