The Leak Alert Program sends automated notifications to single family homes, multi-family properties with two to five dwelling units, and irrigation accounts
Automated water meters allow the SFPUC and our customers to access timely and accurate information about water use. Using the information available to us through hourly water consumption data from our automated meter reading system, we notify the water account holder, property owner, and occupant (if not the same person) of residential single-family homes and two to five unit multi-family properties, and sites that have irrigation meters when they have three days of non-stop, 24/7 water use, which could mean they have a plumbing leak. For multi-family properties with four or five dwelling units, in addition to the three days of nonstop water use, we also screen for water use that has exceeded the property's average use for the past 90 days by 50 percent or more. Please review the frequently asked questions below to learn more about the program and actions you can take.
We send leak alerts by email, mobile phone text, phone call, and letter, depending on the contact information we have on file in our billing system. Please update account contact information through our online My Account platform. If you haven't yet registered to use My Account, sign up is simple but requires having a copy of your water bill to refer to, or knowing your account number. If you don't have a copy of your bill and don't know your water account number, contact our Customer Service Bureau at email@example.com or (415) 551-3000 for assistance.
Why did I receive a leak alert?
Our leak alert is a courtesy to inform you that the water meter at your home or multi-family property has recorded continuous water usage of at least 7.5 gallons per hour every hour over a monitored three-day period. Typically, there are periods during the day or night, often when residents are sleeping, when water fixtures and irrigation systems would not be running and no water use is occurring. Therefore, it is unusual for the meter in a home, small multi-family building, or property with an irrigation account to register usage continuously for consecutive 24-hour periods and this may indicate a leak or a tap, hose bib, or valve accidentally left on. You are advised to check and fix potential leaks or other causes of high water use. While our alerts and My Account platform can help inform you if constant usage is occurring, it is the customer's responsibility to find and address leaks at their property.
How was the continuous usage identified?
The automated water meter at your property provides us with information on hourly water usage. The meter readings we receive identify every cubic foot of water used each hour (one cubic foot is equal to approximately 7 ½ gallons).
If our data shows hourly water usage of at least one cubic foot every hour for a 3-day reporting period, we will notify the water account holder, property owner, and occupant (if not the same person) by email, mobile phone text, phone call, and letter, for all methods we have current contact information on file. Our alerts will indicate the dates and amounts of continuous usage. We will notify you up to three times. Our first contact will be shortly after we first detect three days of nonstop water use, a second time about two weeks later if nonstop use is still occurring regularly, and a third time about two months later if nonstop use is still ongoing. Single family and multi-family homes with two to five dwelling units may also be issued a final courtesy notice in the form of a door hanger if nonstop use is continuing after 10 weeks.
Does this mean I have a leak?
Continuous usage may indicate your property has a plumbing or irrigation system leak or that a tap or hose bib was left running. Visit our fix leaks page for tips on how to identify and repair common leaks including toilets, faucets, showerheads, and irrigation systems. Select standard toilet repair parts are provided free from the SFPUC and are available to pick up at our Customer Service counter (located at 525 Golden Gate Avenue) during business hours Monday – Friday. Residential customers with toilets installed before 1994 may also be eligible for a free new toilet, including installation, through our Plumbing Fixture Replacement Program (PREP). In addition to visually inspecting plumbing fixtures, other ways to help detect leaks include:
Register or log on to My Account to view your household’s or property's hourly, daily, weekly and monthly water use. Sudden increases in water use could mean a plumbing or irrigation system leak has developed or some other unusual water use is occurring. If My Account shows that your hourly water usage never went to zero over the last three days, it could indicate you have an ongoing leak.
You may also request a free inspection by the SFPUC that will include performing a manual read of the water meter while all water fixtures and irrigation systems are turned off, which can help identify silent leaks that could occur from breaks in the main water supply line leading into your home.
Do I need to contact the SFPUC if I receive a leak alert?
Our leak alerts are issued as a courtesy. You do not need to contact us if you receive one unless you would like to be opted out of receiving certain methods of notification, such as mobile phone text or any such notices in the future. Use the resources on our website and My Account for guidance on how to identify the most common types of leaks that may be occurring around your home, multi-family property, or landscape. If you suspect you have a leak but cannot repair it, please contact a plumber or irrigation expert. Customers are responsible for repairing leaks on their property. Routine water-fixture and irrigation system maintenance and repairs can help prevent leaks and avoid wasted water and money.
How much water could I be wasting?
For a general estimate, multiply the continuous usage rate noted on our leak alert by 24 hours to calculate how much water is being wasted through constant usage in a single day. Then multiply this daily amount by the number of days nonstop usage has been occurring at your property. Our leak alert will note when constant usage started, or you can check hourly use on My Account and scroll back through days to see how long constant hourly use occurred. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that ten percent of U.S. homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. A leaking toilet can waste upward of 3,000 gallons of water in just a few days, while a faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
The reporting tools available on My Account can help you see hourly, daily, monthly and seasonal patterns in your water use, and spot unusual increases in water usage that could be attributed to a leak.
My property has a leak, but I didn't receive a courtesy alert in any format (email, text, phone call, or letter) from the SFPUC.
To avoid sending too many alerts and notifying people about situations that might not be leaks, we send courtesy alerts to single family properties, and since September 2018, to small multi-family buildings with up to five dwelling units, after three days of nonstop water use that is 7.5 gallons or more per hour. Some properties may experience intermittent leaks in toilets, irrigation systems, and other plumbing fixtures that last a few hours or only a day or two at a time, which would not trigger a courtesy alert from the SFPUC. In particular, toilets often run intermittently as flappers and fill valves age, and we advise residents to check and replace internal parts before occasional leaks become constant. Likewise, irrigation leaks may occur only when the system is on and never reach the three days of constant use threshold. We recommend visually checking irrigation systems periodically to check for problems. A small number of multi-family properties and about one third of irrigation accounts have a particular type of 1.5-inch or 2-inch diameter meter that only registers when water use reaches 75 gallons an hour, and because of this would not receive an SFPUC courtesy alert for constant usage under 75 gallons an hour. If none of these conditions apply, and you believe your property experienced three or more days of nonstop water use and you didn't receive a courtesy alert from the SFPUC, check that your contact information on file with us is up to date. You can do this online through My Account, by mail (see directions on your bill), by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (415) 551-3000.
How can I use hourly data on My Account to identify possible leaks or high or unusual water use?
Regularly checking your daily and hourly water use can help you understand what is typical for your property and what may be unusual and reflect potential leaks, taps or equipment inadvertently left on, or other problems. To best assess your property’s water use trends, we recommend you check your daily and hourly water use at least monthly, and look at data over at least a two-week period. Make a note of the days and times your property may engage in the following water use activities and consider these when you review your daily and hourly usage: irrigating landscapes, filling hot tubs and pools, indoor and outdoor cleaning, laundry, and any other water-intensive practices that may be unique to your site. Consider also if there have been any changes in occupancy in your property or periods of no or reduced occupancy. For single family and small multi-family properties, water use that never goes to zero during any hour within a 24-hour period may indicate there is a leak or the irrigation system or a tap was left running. For any property type, a sudden spike in hourly and daily use that can't be explained by changes in occupancy, scheduled irrigation, or other specific activities may also indicate a leak or running or faulty equipment.
I am part of a business/organization that received a leak alert, and do not directly maintain the irrigation/landscape on the property. What are my next steps?
If you are a business or organization and received a leak alert from us, we encourage you to contact the property landscape contractor to assist in reviewing the irrigation system for leaks by inspecting irrigation valves, identifying missing or broken sprinkler heads, and flagging muddy or wet areas in the landscape along the irrigation lines that may be cracked or ruptured. You may also schedule a free landscape irrigation assessment by the SFPUC that could also help you identify leaks and ways to save water. A follow up report of our findings pointing out ways to improve your irrigation system efficiency will also be provided to you. Registering to our online MyAccount system can help in monitoring the site's water use over time. Remember while leaks can happen to anyone, it is your responsibility to resolve leaks in your property in a timely manner.