Citrus County’s Students Are Learning to Save Water Using These Dye Tablets


In 2015, Citrus County students found 130 leaky toilets in their homes. Now, the Water Leak Detection Challenge continues.

The county, a partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is teaching kids about saving water, said Debra Burden, the county’s water conservation manager. 

A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water a day, or 6,000 gallons a month. There are several factors involved in pricing, but by fixing the leak, families could save anywhere from $7.50 to $22 per month on their water bill, she said.

In the 2015 challenge, students from eight primary schools checked for toilet leaks in their homes.

The 2016 challenge asks whether parents will fix toilets immediately, within a month or never. The county does not currently know how many toilets get fixed, she said.

Participating classrooms receive instructions, dye tablets and promotional pencils. The teacher first explains the process to students, who then take two tablets home and work alongside their parents, she said.

Theresa Ryan, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Citrus Springs Elementary School, said her students identified about eight leaky toilets in 2015.

“It was so easy to do,” she said.

Ryan said she demonstrated the process on a classroom toilet by lifting the tank lid, dropping a tablet into the water and waiting 15 minutes.

A change in water color meant there was a leak, she said.

Tyler was one of the students who received the assignment. The next day, he turned it in, she said.

Courtesy to Debra R. Burden, Water Conservation manager at Citrus County.
Courtesy to Debra R. Burden, Water Conservation manager at Citrus County.

He found one leak, which his parents said they would fix within a week, she said.

Ryan said students brought their findings to class and worked together to calculate how much water was being wasted.

This year, Ryan’s class took the 2016 challenge during Citrus County’s Spring Break from March 21 to March 25. Ryan said she hopes to analyze her student’s results the week of April 18 as a break from the Florida exam schedule.

Michael Breder, a fifth-grade science teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary, said the challenge helps parents save money on city water and, in turn, spend more on their children, for example.

While students took the challenge in 2015, Breder replaced two toilet valves in his home for about $3 or $4, resulting in $1 to $2 savings on his water bill per month, he said.

Breder said he assigned the current challenge to students on March 30, and that more than half of the students’ families could fix a leak without help from a plumber.

Breder said the challenge is important because fixing leaks can save families money as well as drinking water. Only about 1 percent of the freshwater on Earth is drinkable. He’s not sure Citrus County Utilities is doing enough to ensure families replace leaky toilet valves. 

“If the water company really wanted to ensure that people fix this, they would offer free rebates,” he said, “or a voucher” for toilet valves.

To join the challenge, Citrus County teachers can send an email to by April 15 with the following information:

  • Teacher’s name
  • School name
  • Number of students in the classroom
  • Students’ grades levels

Classrooms with a participation rate of at least 70 percent will join a contest to win a pizza party, according to the instructions Burden sends out to schools.

“When I got the email, I was like, I definitely need to do this with my students,” Ryan said. “And they were pretty amazed with the results as well.”

About Kristine Janata

Kristine is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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