Water Leak? Believe it even when you don’t see it!

by stevensplumbingac on February 7, 2014

water leaks in backyard of houseA massive water leak that can’t be seen? 

You better believe it!   Let me tell you a recent experience I had personally with a water leak.

(602) 273-7473

When my wife (who gets the mail and pays the household bills) called in a panic one day to let me know our water bill was 2 and 1/2 times higher than normal, my first response was “no way!” 

I had her read me the figures on the statement, and it showed we had used over 30,000 gallons more than our normal monthly usage. 

30,000 gallons!  That’s a lot of water, and hard not to notice!

That’s enough water to have filled a couple of swimming pools, but we don’t have a pool.  Besides, it’s winter – who fills a pool in winter? 

Extra laundry?  Nope, nothing unusual there.  Spring cleaning?  No (it’s still winter, remember?).  Running the dishwasher?…bathing dogs?…watering the garden? (oh, wait, we don’t have a garden).   No…no…and, no. 

Okay.  We concluded we really hadn’t used an extra 30,000 gallons of water.  But there also were no obvious signs of a water leak, inside or out.  

I was having trouble believing we were losing over 1000 gallons of water a day, on average, and there was nothing to be seen.  That’s a tremendous amount of water, and we weren’t finding even a small puddle.  How do you hide a puddle the size of two swimming pools?  Why weren’t we floating in a small lake?  Sloshing through mud to get in and out of the house?  Using the canoe to get out of the garage?

You may need to call a good plumber to find that leak!

Good thing I have connections to a really good plumbing company (blatant self promotion).  I called for help, and we went to work, checking for a leak, just the way the Water Leaks page on our website recommends:

water leak indicatorFirst, I made sure no water was being used inside or outside the house.  Then I checked the water meter, looking closely at the leak indicator.

Ours is one of the new digital read water meters.  Instead of the low-flow indicator arrow found on the old dial meters, this digital meter has an image of a faucet spout just below the digital readout, which drips if there’s water movement, and the numbers under the faucet flash as the water flow registers:      .1, .2, .3  etc.  Clever, huh?  Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out if you’ve got a water leak.  In this case, the faucet was dripping, and the numbers were flashing, confirming what I already suspected: we had a leak. 

But where?

To determine if the water leak was inside or out, I turned off the main shut-off valve to the house and checked the meter again.  The little faucet was still drip, drip, dripping.  Okay, now I knew the water leak was outside, but I still didn’t know where.  A quick run with the electronic leak detection equipment revealed that the leak was not in the copper main water service, which runs from the meter to the house.  The leak had to be somewhere in the sprinkler system.

But, 30000 gallons in a relatively short period of time?  And not a drop in sight!  Is that possible? 
Unfortunately…..yes, it is.  We actually run into this situation a lot at customer’s homes.  Leak detection equipment can’t be used on plastic piping.  So a water leak in plastic pipe, which is what’s used for sprinkler systems, is hard
to find unless the leak is somewhere obvious and you can see the flood.  Believe it or not, the soil in the Phoenix metro area can absorb so much water that even a large leak, if it’s far enough underground, may not leave visible evidence of water leaking, and the leak can go undetected for a long time.  That’s what happened in this case.  

gopher hole causes water leak in yardFinally located the leak in a far corner of the yard, where a sprinkler timer had jammed and water was fairly gushing down a gopher hole.   Actually, down a warren of gopher holes. 

Although the actual leak was at the surface, because it was going underground via the gopher holes, it was being absorbed far below the surface and there was almost no trace of wet soil at the surface.  

Believe it, even when you can’t see it.  A hu-u-uge amount of water literally down the hole, completely unnoticed.  And an equally hu-u-uge water bill (hope we won’t see one of those again!).

Oh, but I think the gophers moved out.  I guess that’s the good news.

Got questions?  Give us a call!  An experienced plumber is always available during business hours to answer your questions….about water leaks.  Sorry, can’t help you with gophers.

Stevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning
(602) 273-7473

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