Nationwide, Americans are paying closer attention to how much water they use on a daily basis. But water tends to be a hot-button topic for California residents, in particular, who have seen and experienced the negative outcomes associated with water shortages. While only 10% of statewide water use<> is attributed to urban consumption, laws have been put in place to mitigate potentially irresponsible water use. 

A little over a year ago, the state of California set official water consumption goals in order to reduce the adverse effects of climate change and future droughts. Until 2025, indoor daily water usage cannot exceed 55 gallons per person. After that point, daily water consumption will gradually decrease so that resources can be preserved and that the state can thrive. And while this legislation is both positive and proactive, it can create problems for those who aren’t aware just how much water they’re using — or wasting.

Certainly, we can all become more aware of our water usage habits. The American Water Works Association points out that 23.9% of our daily water use can be attributed to faucets, while 22.1% is linked to our utilization of washing machines. If we don’t keep the faucet running while we brush our teeth or wash every garment after a single wear, we could cut down on water waste. Alternatively, taking a shorter shower or taking showers less frequently could allow us to reduce the 19.5% water usage that results from this activity.

But those aren’t the only situations in which water is wasted. You can do your part to shut off faucets and to reduce how often you wash clothes, but that may not be enough to make a difference — especially if your home has leaks, corrosion, or other hidden plumbing difficulties. In many cases, simple plumbing problems can result in both emotional frustration and unnecessary water use. Not only can that derail your efforts to lead a greener lifestyle and comply with statewide regulations, but it can also cause your water bill to skyrocket or make it increasingly difficult for you to go about your daily routine. In some scenarios, these household plumbing issues could even cause property damage or present health and safety issues for your family. In other words, you’ll want to get these issues fixed as soon as possible. But what are some of the most prevalent plumbing problems to watch out for? Here are just five of the most common plumbing-related dilemmas you might face as a California homeowner.

Frozen Pipes

Yes, even in sunny California you might have to deal with the dreaded scenario of frozen pipes. Although temperatures might be relatively mild during the day, temperatures can drop quite dramatically overnight in some parts of the state. And if you haven’t done enough to protect your pipes from the cold, you might get into trouble. To prevent frozen pipes, you should keep temperatures set above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (especially if you’ll be away), keep a faucet dripping, and insulate all water supply lines. You can thaw frozen pipes with a hair dryer, portable space heater, or electric heating pad, but be sure to proceed with caution and to keep the faucet open. Never use a blowtorch, heaters that use kerosene or propane, or other types of open flame to address a frozen pipe. If you’re unable to locate, access, or thaw a frozen pipe, you should contact a licensed plumber to handle the situation and to help you prevent this problem in the future.

Clogged Drains

A clogged drain is a common occurrence, but that doesn’t mean it should be a part of everyday life. Slow-draining sinks, bubbling toilets, foul odors, puddles, and water back-up are all surefire signs that you’re dealing with a clog. In the majority of cases, clogged drains will result when grease, oil, produce peels, feminine products, “flushable” wipes, egg shells, kitty litter, hair, dental floss, or other problematic items make their way down the drain. Your first instinct might be to buy a chemical drain cleaner at the store, but this usually doesn’t produce long-term results. It often masks the real problem or can even contribute to it. Even though you may be able to snake the drain yourself, a major clog could require the expertise of a professional plumber.

Sewage Backup

The EPA estimates that 23,000 to 75,000 sanitary sewer overflows occur on an annual basis, which represents a significant health concern for Americans. Considering that many of the country’s sewer systems are several centuries old, it’s no surprise that this aging infrastructure can lead to issues for homeowners across the United States. What’s more, sewer line clogs can happen even in newer homes. Tree roots and certain food or personal care products, when flushed down the drain, are the most common culprits, but it’s best to contact a professional to be sure. If you have more than one clogged drain in your home, are experiencing issues when trying to flush toilets, or have noticed water back-ups and bubbling, it’s time to explore whether your sewer needs some TLC.

Leaking or Burst Pipes

Household leaks are rather ubiquitous and highly wasteful. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide each year. The average family may waste up to 180 gallons of water per week due to leaks, which is enough to wash 300 extra loads of laundry per year. Furthermore, 10% of American homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more every day. But while the effects of leaking pipes may be obvious, it’s not always easy to find the source of those leaks. Dripping faucets are usually detectable, but there may be more complicated sources at play. What’s more, you may not even realize that your pipes are showing signs of corrosion or are about to burst due to excessive pressure. When in doubt, talk to your plumber and have an inspection performed. Being proactive about leaks or looking into the potential of corroded pipelines could mitigate the need for emergency plumbing services (and could even prevent property damage throughout your home).

Water Heater Malfunction

Nationwide, water heating accounted for nearly 20% of residential energy consumption in 2015, so it’s clear that our reliance on these appliances isn’t going anywhere. If you suddenly have no hot water, hear strange noises, or notice changes in the water’s appearance, it’s time to take action. That said, electric and gas-fueled water heaters should be assessed and repaired by a licensed plumber to ensure your well-being (and to make sure your troubleshooting won’t do more harm than good). It’s generally a good idea to have this system checked before winter arrives, anyway. While you might not be dealing with bitter temperatures in the Golden State, you still won’t want to be forced to take cold showers or pay for emergency repairs.

Even though these plumbing problems are extremely commonplace, they need to be taken seriously. You might be reluctant to spend a substantial amount of money or to contact your plumbing company for what you perceive to be a minor issue. And to be sure, there are a number of basic plumbing repairs that homeowners may attempt to DIY — many of which can be completed successfully. But if you’ve tried to fix one of these problems to no avail (or you simply don’t feel comfortable trying), it’s time to bring in the big guns. 

It’s simply not worth risking the comfort, health, and safety of your family to ignore or downplay the plumbing issues that are present within your home. If you seem to constantly be dealing with plumbing issues or you’re not sure what’s causing your water bills to steadily increase, it’s a good idea to contact a reputable plumbing company in your area. Although you might be able to mitigate water waste by adopting newer, greener habits, you’ll still be wasting water due to fixable plumbing issues. And for California homeowners who need to adhere to strict water usage guidelines, it’s vital to ensure every gallon of water is put to good use. To really make a difference in your commitment to sustainability and in your monthly expenditures — as well as your daily stress levels — it’s essential to have those pesky plumbing problems fixed once and for all.