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Old 07-21-2013, 10:51 AM   #1
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Mysterious water loss is costing me $500/month!

(Moderators- this is a bump/cross-post from another thread that is over a year old and pretty much dead. I posted to it, not realizing the age. This post is current.)

The water district called us about 4 months ago and informed us that our bill, normally $120, was tripled. They had caught the unusual usage and were checking it out.
I had no explanation. Except for the spinning leak detection dial on the meter, there were no signs of a leak even with everything turned off. I closed the ball valve to the house and left the irrigation system gate valve open, and the meter kept going. I closed the gate valve to the irrigation system - the meter stopped. Then I opened the valve to the house, and the meter was still stopped. I left the irrigation valve closed and our bill dropped to $88.

Now that summer is raging I have had to open the irrigation valve, and our bill hit $332, and today the bill came. $496!

We have an acre, so our irrigation system is fairly large. I have looked everywhere and dug a bunch of holes, followed pipes by trenching, replaced any fitting, pipe, or valve that had moisture around it, still the meter spins. Our yard looks like Gophersaurus has moved in.

I had a local leak detection company come out and for $250 they couldn't find anything. They said it would take at least 2 bottles of tracer gas to pressurize the system because the previous owner that installed it many years ago cobbled it together out of 3" PVC, 2" PVC, and anything else he could scrounge up. We said that we would hold off on the tracer gas.

Today when we got the bill for $496, we called the water district. They came right out and tried to help, and that's when the light went on.

At one time, our lot was part of a much larger parcel, and a well provided water to the irrigation. When the lots were split, the water was plumbed through our meter and since the well was on the other lot it fell into disuse.
I don't know the status of the pipe or where it is, but my neighbor's lot is nice and green and mine is rapidly drying out and dying.

If the pipe is still there and was merely shut off with a valve, it would be as easy as turning the handle to access our water.
I'm going to have to dig a trench along the property line to try to find the pipe, if it still exists. Or I could get some coat hangers...


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Old 07-21-2013, 12:16 PM   #2
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No mystery there, obviously the water is going to the field next door, the nice green one, you've already proven that. A metal detector should find the valve.


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Old 07-21-2013, 12:16 PM   #3
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try the coat hangers and see. its low cost and might help you find where to start digging.
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Old 07-21-2013, 12:34 PM   #4
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We trenched along the property line and didn't find anything. I guess my neighbor is off the hook- I'm glad I didn't go over and give him a hard time.

We split the system and capped it to test the front half. No leak! I don't have water to the back half of the property yet, but I can water the lawn now.

The pipe to the back half runs under a seasonal streambed that has accumulated a lot of sand in the last few years. It has been dry for the last three years. If the leak is in that section of pipe, the sand is doing a great job of concealing the flow, and the soil is absorbing the water. There is no sign of flow downstream.

I'm going to abandon the old pipe and run new 1" to the back of the property. I'll use the 3" pipe as a conduit where I can and trench where I have to. If there is still a leak or hidden tap on the old pipe, it will be bypassed. End of problem!
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:49 AM   #5
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Thanks for the update, glad you got it mostly figured out
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