MELBOURNE, Fla. — Retired plumber Michael Brown fell into hard times last year, and he learned the hard way that checking if your pipes are leaking is crucial to avoiding high bills.

  • Melbourne resident Michael Brown's water bill at almost $7,000
  • Brown said after defaulting on payments, his water was cut off
  • Melbourne: Average wasted water about 10,000 gal/year per home
  • RELATED LINK: More Brevard County news

He hasn't had running water for more than a year. His bill so high — $6,944.48. It seems more like a down payment on a house.

It all started after the City of Melbourne notified Brown of a possible leak, he found multiple leaks, but with a fixed income, it took months to repair, and by that time the bill skyrocketed into the thousands.

According to Brown, he established a payment plan but defaulted on that, and his water was cut off.

Brown told Spectrum News he did what he needed to get the water back by using a PVC pipe to make a connection where the water meter was. He was fined for that, along with a couple of other issues, which only added to the high bill.

“I did cut off some locks two or three times, but I did no damage to the meter,” Brown explained.

The city said, “Mr. Brown was advised that he needs to bring his account current to restore service. Further, Mr. Brown has not made payments in accordance with a prior payment arrangement and therefore is ineligible for any payment arrangements.”

“I’m not trying to not pay — I just can’t pay the way they want,” Brown said.

The City of Melbourne has some tips to periodically check your meter to make sure you catch any possible leaks early so you don’t end up with bills you can’t afford to pay: Record meter reading, don't run water for at least two hours, recheck, and if the meter moved, you may have a leak.

Here’s another tip from the city: Another way to check for a leak in your toilet — place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank, and in 15 minutes if it shows up in the bowl without flushing, you may have a leak.

According to the City of Melbourne, 10 percent of homes have leaks and the average of wasted water is about 10,000 gallons a year per home, costing home owners hundreds of dollars.