Wednesday, May 6, 2015

You've got a Leak in Your Water Line - Now What?

When you notice a puddle or standing water in your yard for an extended period of time, you’ve generally got one of two issues.  The first issue, which we’ll talk about in a different post is that you’ve got poor drainage or too compacted of soil (too much clay).

The second reason you may have standing water in your yard is because of a water line leak.  The leak could be on your sprinkler irrigation line, or worse, the damage could be on the water line that services your home from the Water District “Main” line (the Main water line is generally located in the street or alley). 

Determining if the standing water is from your irrigation line leaking is the easiest place to start.  Most of us run our sprinkler system while we’re sleeping, so it’s best practice to manually run though all the stations and inspect each sprinkler head periodically.  Let each zone run a few minutes, and if you were able to make your standing water problem worse, you’ve found your culprit.  If not, try shutting off your automated sprinkler system for a few days.  If that solves your standing water problem, good news – now you’ll just have to troubleshoot that line further.  If you determine it’s not your sprinkler line that is leaking, you’ll need to move on to investigating your domestic service water line.

What if you don’t have noticeable standing water, but you’ve received a notice from your water supplier, or you realize your water bill has jumped significantly in the past month or so.  If you can’t account for the extra usage from extreme household use, you’ll want to do some further investigation to determine if you’ve got a leak.  The quickest way to confirm your suspicion is to turn off the water supply to your home, and read your water meter. 

1.    NO WATER USAGE: Make sure there are no appliances, swamp coolers, toilets, outdoor hoses, etc. turned on and running.

2.    LOCATE YOUR METER: The water meter is generally located in the front yard in an underground pit, unless your Main water line is in the alley, then it would be underground in your backyard.  If you don’t have a water meter in your yard, it will be inside your home, probably in the basement, where the water enters your home, and where the water shut off valve is.

3.   IS THE METER RUNNING: With no water running inside or outside your house, your meter should not be changing numbers/running.  If the meter is still running, you need to determine if the leak is inside or outside your home.

            ***  If your meter isn't running at this step, good news – you don’t have a leak!  You’ll need to explore other arenas to save on that water bill.

4.    TURN OFF WATER: Locate where your water enters your home; generally, your shut off valve is located in that immediate area.  If you have a leaver (ball valve), turn the ball valve 90 degrees so it is perpendicular to the water line. 

5.    TEST THE LINE: Once there is no water running into your house, check the meter again.  If the water is turned off at the house, and your meter is still running, you have a leak somewhere between where the water enters your house, and the meter.  If you turn off the water to your house, and your meter stops running, you likely have a leaky appliance or fixture in your house.  If this is the case, it is now a job for a plumber as this becomes pipe work inside your home.


If you have an idea as to where the leak may be, that will save us time, and you money.  However, if you’re not sure where the leak is, we've got two options to search for your damaged pipe. 

  1. We could provide a leak detection service.  A technician will use either a listening devise, and “hear” where there is a leak, or they’ll push helium through the line and be able to detect approximately where the leak is coming from.
  2. We can blindly search for your leak.  This is clearly the worst option if you've got a landscaped yard.  We’d make some assumptions as to where the water line runs by drawing an imaginary line between where the water enters your home, and where we know it connects to the water Main.  From there, we’d look for any extra green patches of grass (assuming that area of your lawn likes the extra water) or low points in your lawn (settling due to leak).  If your yard is heavily landscaped, or if there are many trees/bushes in our suspected work zone, this adds yet another layer of difficulty to the search.  Choose this option at your own risk, and please be kind to our operators when they need to rip through your prize rose bush.
If you have had multiple leaks, look for a pattern in the failures.  You may want to opt for a complete water line replacement if there is a trend.  What was the issue with your first leak?  If it was just a crack in the pipe, you’re probably fine with a spot repair.  If you’ve had a few leaks at the couplers or fittings (where there is joining of two pipes, or changes in direction of the pipe), you may want do a full line replacement.  Depending on the length of your water line, you may end up saving money with a complete line replacement, as often a new line isn't much more expense than a spot repair.

What do you do if the water leak is so bad, you need to turn all the water off to your house?  Well, first you hope you've been a great neighbor, and they’ll let you share their water for a day or two until we can scramble our schedule to come take care of your issue.  How you ask? 
  1. Bring your neighbor their favorite bottle of wine and/or a fresh baked pie
  2. Shut off the water to your house at the shut off valve (where the water enters your house)
  3. Find a hose that is long enough to reach from your neighbors outdoor garden hose spigot to your outdoor garden hose spigot. 
  4. Attach a female to female hose connection from the hose to your spigot (see image)
  5. Have your neighbor turn on their outdoor water spigot, and you need to turn on your outdoor water spigot.
  6. Use your facilities as needed
  7. Mow your neighbor’s lawn for a summer, as they just salvaged your hygienic habits until a proper repair can be made.
Please note!!  If you are having the water line leak from around November 1st to March 31st, you need to adjust a toilet in your house so the water is constantly flowing and it doesn't have a chance to freeze in the hose.  Clearly if there will be no one home all day, you can disconnect and drain the hose for the day to save water.  Please do not just turn on a sink to drip, as most of us have been trained to turn off drippy faucets without thinking.


Call Nixcavating at (303)776-8898.

Water line leaks are unfortunately pretty common, and their causes are varied.  The main causes are from settling in the soil, or from an install or part failure (fittings/glue failure).  If you have a leak near your foundation, you probably have a leak in your copper water line from rubbing against the concrete foundation.  The friction can either be from natural settling around the foundation, or the kinetic energy generated when the pressure in your water line changes, i.e. you turn your water on/off.  The pressure changes and movement in your pipe are microscopic, however, over years this movement can cause damage. 

After we’ve completed a repair on either your line, or the Main water line, we've occasionally received calls from people concerned by the color or consistency of their water.  They say their water is cloudy, or it’s very bubbly – and that’s true, although it’s not a concern.  Just run your faucet until it’s clear again.  There is a possibility of dirt getting into your water line while we’re doing the repair, after all, we’re working at least 4 feet underground.  If you've run the water, and still don’t like what you’re seeing, check the screens on your faucets.  A quick removal/rinse of those should have you back to happy. 

If you have questions as to whose responsibility the repair of the water line, is - you can safely assume it's yours if the damage or leak is between the meter, and your home.  If the damage appears to be at the meter, or in the Right of Way (sidewalk/street), the repair may be taken care of by your water provider. Please keep in mind the responsibly changes based on where you live, and who provides your water. 

Option A:
Option B:
Option C:

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