Who owns and maintains which water pipes?

Cross-section of a water meter assembly


OWASA maintains:

  • the public water lines or "mains" (usually 8 inches or more in diameter and installed in the street right-of-way).
  • the pipe from the water main to our water meter assembly.
  • the water meter, box and cover.
  • the meter “yoke” that holds the meter, including two short, curved sections of pipe on each side of the meter.

If you see evidence of a leak in a pipe that OWASA owns and maintains, please call us at 919-968-4421.

Customers maintain:

  • the service pipe that connects the water meter assembly to the customer’s residence or other building.
  • the nut or other fitting that connects the customer’s service pipe to OWASA’s meter assembly.
  • the customer’s plumbing system including pipes, the pressure reducing valve, thermal expansion tank or pressure relief valve, water heater and other appliances and fixtures 

Maintaining your plumbing system

Please check your water bill every month for unexpected high water use, which could indicate there is a leak somewhere in your plumbing system.

Toilet flappers are one of the most common places where leaks develop. To check a toilet with a tank for a leak, put food dye in the tank and wait 15 to 20 minutes without flushing. If the dye appears in the toilet bowl, there is a leak, probably at the flapper at the bottom of the tank. If you confirm that the flapper leaks and replace it, be sure to get a flapper suitable for use with water containing OWASA's disinfectant, called "chloramines." (Chloramines are a compound of chlorine and ammmonia.) For more about chloramines, please click here.

A leaking flapper can waste as much as 100,000 gallons or more in one month. (Residential water use averages about 4,000 gallons per month.) In some cases, a malfunctioning fill valve in your toilet tank can cause water to leak into the toilet bowl. If the fill valve fails, you will be able to see water going down the “overflow tube” inside the tank.

Periodically check your indoor faucets, outdoor spigots, showerheads, washing machine hoses, irrigation system (if you have one) and other appliances and fixtures for leaks and drips. A small drip or leak can waste thousands of gallons over time.

If you see a wet spot on the ground in dry weather in the area where your water service line goes from our meter to your residence or building, there may be a leak in the service line.

Please contact OWASA if you wish to arrange a simple, free inspection to see whether there is a leak in your plumbing system. The inspection involves checking whether water goes through your water meter when you have no faucets, toilets, appliances, etc. in use. You can do this leak check by looking at the meter reading and rotating dial before and after a period of several hours (such as overnight) when you do not use any water. Please click here for more information.

If you fix a leak in a water pipe, fixture, etc., you may be eligible for an adjustment of your OWASA account (no more than once every three years). Please contact OWASA Customer Service at 919-537-4343 or customerinquiries@owasa.org  to ask about an account adjustment, or click here for more information.

Like air, water will expand in volume when heated. Therefore, we recommend that you have an expansion tank or a relief valve to handle the “thermal expansion” of water in your plumbing system due to the normal operation of your water heater. If you do not have a device to handle thermal expansion of water, you may notice frequent releases of pressure from your hot water heater, drips in faucets, etc. For more information about thermal expansion, please contact OWASA at 919-968-4421 or info@owasa.org, or a licensed plumber.

Protect your pipes from freezing weather by closing cracks and other openings in unheated areas with water pipes. You can use insulation, plastic, newspaper, etc.to keep out cold air. Foundation vents may be hinged so they are easy to close.

If you cannot protect pipes from freezing temperatures or for other reasons believe that pipes may freeze, you can let water drip from faucet(s) to reduce the potential for frozen pipes to burst. If frozen water bursts a pipe, the repair costs, property damage and water loss may exceed the cost of simple precautions with limited cost. For more information about protecting pipes from freezing, please click here.

Please make sure that you have and know the location of the water shut-off valve for your home or business. If a major leak occurs, being able to quickly turn off your water will save dollars, water and possible damage to your property. (We may charge a fee for turning off service at our meter. No more than once in any twelve month period, a customer may request to have their service temporarily disconnected and subsequently reconnected at no charge for routine plumbing system maintenance.) For more information about shut-off valves, please click here.

OWASA does not evaluate or endorse plumbing companies, but we recommend that you have plumbing work done by a licensed plumber or by someone you trust with expertise in plumbing. Improper plumbing work can cause significant water waste.