Time is short and conservation measures need to happen now—just ask California Governor Jerry Brown who on April 1 implemented unprecedented mandatory water restrictions due to dwindling water supplies. In an effort to make the most of our time, Bell Partners has monitored the water usage of over 24,000 individual apartment units. By partnering with Utility Sentry a leading leak detection company, we were able to save in excess of 33 million gallons of water in just 12 months.

We found that 98 percent of excess water use in apartments was the result of water flow in the toilets. The vast majority of the time the problem was the toilet flapper.

Armed with indisputable evidence that toilet flappers were the culprit for millions of gallons of wasted water, we decided to simply replace the toilet flappers in all 370 apartment units at an apartment community in North Carolina. We concluded that proactively alleviating leaks—versus reacting to them—was the best approach.

We continued to monitor the daily water usage and high usage alerts, expecting them to dramatically decline after the replacements had been completed. Instead, after three months we had not observed a dramatic reduction in the water usage of the apartment units, nor had we seen much of a reduction in the occurrence of high usage alerts. While acknowledging that flappers are not precision devices, it turns out that toilets are a little more complicated than we gave them credit for!

Issues that may cause toilet leaks even after a flapper change:

  1. Damaged, uneven lip where the flapper makes contact. (Sand the lip in the bottom of the tank flat to fix.)
  2. Partial flush cycle which does not properly seal the flapper. i.e., the flapper only closes half way but does not have enough force to completely seal.
  3. Issues with the fill valve.
  4. Additional products put in the tank by residents.
  5. Damaged flush arm (may make contact with the side of the bowl).
  6. Improper chain length.
  7. Improper adjustment of the fill float (water runs into the fill tube.)
  8. Improper alignment of fill valve, float, flush arm, and flapper.
  9. Swollen tank gasket that obstructs the flapper seal (the installer may have cranked the nut in the bottom of the tank too tight causing the gasket to wrinkle/flip up so that the flapper seal is not complete).
  10. Remaining debris in tank bottom that obstructs the flapper seal.

At present the results indicate that Utility Sentry’s leak detection service is more valuable than we realized. We’ll continue to improve our reaction to the alerts that come in (daily at some properties).

We will continue to manage water use in an effort to save water and money—something that makes sense for those serious about conservation.


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