A toothpick? Yes, a simple toothpick placed on your water meter can help you determine if you may have a leaky toilet inside or broken irrigation pipe somewhere in your yard.
With California experiencing its worst drought in more than 100 years, many residents are looking for ways to cut back on water usage. These include installing low-flow shower heads, cutting back on the length of showers or watering lawns less often or even replace them.
But perhaps one of the simplest and most important water-saving steps you can take is simply to find out if you have leaks inside or outside of your home. For many Californians, finding and fixing leaks is probably the easiest way to achieve the state’s 20% voluntary reduction in water usage.
So back to the toothpick. According to EBMUD, make sure all indoor and outside faucets are shut off tightly and no one is using water. Mark the needle(s) on your water meter by laying a straight pin or toothpick exactly on top. Do not use any water for half an hour. If the needle(s) moved, you probably have a leak.
This Web page from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has a simple explanation of the toothpick test, but customers can also request a water saving kit that includes more detailed instructions. Check with your water utility to see if they offer a similar kit and tips.