Take 15 minutes to check for a water leak (June 2016)

Checking and repairing water leaks not only saves water but can also save you money on your water bill. Leaks can be found in faulty or old plumbing, fixtures and fittings (e.g. taps, toilets, dishwashers, piped fridges, washing machines, air conditioners, hot water systems or garden watering systems) or in burst or leaking pipes under the house, inside walls or on the property.

Checking for a water leak

To check if you have a leak:

  • Turn off all taps and water outlets (except the stop tap at the water meter and the toilet)
  • Check the dishwasher and washing machine are off and that no one in the house is using water (e.g. flushing the toilet, having a shower, running the evaporative air conditioner or hose/sprinkler system in the garden)
  • Take a reading of your water meter
  • Wait at least 15 minutes – to detect a slow leak you should wait for an hour
  • Read the water meter again.

If you have the same reading on the water meter there is no leak. If the numbers on the water meter have changed, you may have a leak.

Check if your toilet cistern is leaking

A large water leak in the toilet may be easy to diagnose – with the noise of the toilet constantly refilling being a dead giveaway. But what do you do if there is a slow water leak? Here is where the humble food dye can save you a lot of wasted water.

  • Remove the toilet cistern lid.
  • Drop 10 drops of food colouring into the cistern.
  • Put the lid back on. Do not flush.
  • Wait at least 10-15 minutes, and then look in the toilet bowl.

If the dye has made its way into the bowl you have a leak and should contact a registered plumber.

Your responsibilities

If the pipes are leaking you may be be responsible for their repair – this includes all pipes past the water meter – including a backflow prevention device and any other equipment of the customer connected to a system. All pipes up to and including the water meter are the responsibility of your water corporation (this may still include pipes within the property boundary).

Please note – fire service lines and private lines may have different customer responsibilities and you should contact your water company if you are unclear about who is responsible.

What happens if you have an undetected leak?

An unexplained high water bill may prompt you to check for water leaks, but some leaks can be hard to find. Here are some clues you have an undetected leak:

  • Warped or discoloured cupboards, bench tops, floors, walls (rising damp), damp carpets, drips on the side of the hot water system – there could be a water leak nearby.
  • Wet patches, bright green areas of grass or localised increased vegetation growth there could be a leaking in a pipe underground.

If you think there is a leak at your property you should:

  • Step 1: have a registered plumber come and check it out and fix the leak.
  • Step 2: check your bills to see if your usage has increased because of the leak.
  • Step 3: let your water corporation know about the leak and if your bills have increased, see if you can apply for the Undetected Leak Allowance. The water corporation may require proof that the leak has been repaired.

Water corporations offer some kind of leak allowance for customers with genuine unexplained high usage and leaks - usually on a case-by-case and one-off basis. The Guideline for Unexplained High Usage and Undetected Leak Enquiries sets out the obligations of customers and water corporations, and provides a minimum standard for the calculation of an allowance for leaks and unexplained high usage. Generally, at the water corporation’s discretion, customers can receive one allowance every five years, per property. Under the guideline, the maximum allowance is $1,000.

From our experience, the contentious issue is likely to be whether the leak was ‘detected’ (that is, obvious—such as a leaking hot water system or running toilet) or ‘undetected’ (that is, the customer could not have found it without assistance — such as a leaking underground pipe). Both ‘detected’ and ‘undetected’ are defined in the guideline.

If you have contacted your water corporation to discuss a higher than expected bill, caused by an undetected leak and you are dissatisfied with its response, call EWOV on 1800 500 509 or register a complaint online.


If there is a leak that needs repair, you will need to contact your landlord or real estate agent to organise the repairs. Landlords are generally responsible to keeping the property in good repair. If there is a dispute about who is must pay for repairs contact Tenants Union of Victoria to learn more about your rights and responsibilities.

EWOV Resources

Water Bills: You will receive a water bill quarterly, it’s a good idea to have a look over it at the usage charges and fees applied. If you need help reading your water bill check out our online resources:

Case Studies: