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carl1864 01-12-2010 03:49 PM

Water leak, over 1 gallon every 5 minutes.
I recently recieved a notice from the water company that said my water usage greatly increased, and upon further inspection, it appears I do have a leak since the meter is running even when I have no water running. I've done a leak test on the toilets, they are fine. No dripping faucets. the meter is going about .01 cubic feet every 15 seconds, translated, that's about 1 cubic foot (7.4 gallons) every 25 minutes.

Before I go too much into detail, I'm wondering if making a youtube video of the situation would help? I could make like a 5-10 minute video showing as much of the situation as possible, but before I actually do make one I'd like ask if there are any people on here that would watch it and be able to help?

As far as the details. I've checked everything I can check in the house, traced all the plumbing in the house down there and see no leaks, the crawlspace is nice and dry. So am I correct in assuming that it must be somewhere in the main line from the meter to my house? That's only about a 40 foot distance.

The other thing is, the house has an irrigation system that I've never used and never plan to. I don't know where it ties into the line to get its water supply. I just know there are a few sprinkler heads here and there, and that there is a control box in the garage that is unplugged. Is it likely that maybe the main irrigation system valve wherever it is at may have gone bad and its letting water trickle out of all the parts of the irrigation system? Is there a good way to test it, or find out where it connects to the main line? I don't care about using it, so if needed I could just disconnect it and cap off the line or something.

The last thing that is making things very tough is the neighbors have a sump pump for their basement and the drain is located about 10 feet uphill from my water meter area, and being its a very wet rainy time of year, that pump burps up a big spurt of 2-4 gallons every 10 minutes or so, and its totally flooding my water meter area (water meter is underwater), and it fills up almost as fast as I can pump it out. I've talked to the neighbors about it, they are going to try to have someone look at it on the weekend, and maybe relocate the drain, but who knows if or when that would get done.

I've got a few feet of my main line exposed right now that I started digging up to inspect it, buy due to that sump pump, the hole is full of water, as soon as i pump it, it fills back up at about a rate of 1 inch every 15 seconds or so. It makes it very hard to tell if some of the water is mine or not. As far as I can tell its not though since when I do pump it out, I see no water at all jetting from my pipes, all the water is waterfalling in from near the surface, on the side of their sump pump, rather than rising from the bottom. Other than that area I don't see any other signs between the meter and the house of any excess water, I'd think with that much water leaking it would make a mud bog somewhere but it doesn't.

Any advice? Any things I should try before digging up the main line? I'd hate to dig up my whole yard to find out the problem was something completely different? Should checking the irrigaton system by my first priority? And would making a youtube video of the yard, crawlspace plumbing, hole near the meter, etc, be beneficial enough to anyone to warrant taking the time to do it?


Yoyizit 01-12-2010 04:19 PM

I had a pinhole leak in the pipe under the slab my house rests on and it was a gallon in 3 minutes.
At that rate, you can hear it, but it's louder if you put your ear to any faucet. That's how I found it.
The WaCo put orthophosphate in the water to retard this epidemic of pinholes in copper pipe.
God, and maybe some scientist, knows what that chemical is doing to us.

plummen 01-12-2010 10:06 PM

do you have an outside meter pit? if meter is outside of house in pit canyou turn water off where it enters house and check meter to see if its still running?

SPS-1 01-13-2010 05:38 PM

I once had a leak from the incoming waterline. The water company sent one of their guys who "listened" for the leak using a stethoscope that was basically just a pole that he put up against his ear. As I understand it, the leak is after the meter, so the water company is going to say its your problem, not theirs, but I would call the service office at the water company and explain the situation, and ask if they can help trace the problem. They must see this situation come up often enough.

carl1864 01-14-2010 04:42 PM

Yeah, the water company has sent out a couple people. one guy knew almost nothing. The other was pretty knowledgeable. They agree that it is most likely after the meter, but before the house. Although that person was pretty knowledgeable, they were stumped too and pretty much suggested digging up the whole yard is the only way to go.

The stethiscope is a great idea, I actually just got that idea also from the person who was here last, however most of the pipe is plastic, which I've heard doesn't allow sound to travel well. I was thinking I could try to use it to help figure out which parts of the pipe have water flowing through them and which don't. After partially digging up the main line, (both next to the meter, and next to the house), I've found its definetly not a straight shot, it seems like a snake that goes around a tree, etc. So I can't just dig up the middle of it, without following it all the way too the middle.

I heard that there are ultrasonic machines that can hear the noise of the leak too, but I've had no luck finding any information on purchasing one (I'd rather purchase one even if it was $300 bucks, than pay a company $300 or more to come use theres, plus I don't know what companies around here would have them).

I did have another idea (Its too rainy today to try though), pound a stake about a foot into the ground at various places where the pipe might be, and put my mechanics stethiscope onto that and see if i can hear the noise of the leak. I've heard that they make a hiss and that's how the ultrasonic meters read them. Anyone know if this works?

I've also considered buying an item that I've only seen at harbor freight, but its an electronic diagnostic stethiscope they have for $40, perhaps it might work better than a regular mechanics stethiscope, but I'm not sure, can't find any sort of reviews anywhere. Anyone have experience with the electronic ones vs traditional?


Yoyizit 01-14-2010 05:06 PM

Hissing is "white noise" so you can't filter out all other noises in the ground and still detect the leak, like, say, with a microphone and high-gain amplifier.

Plastic and earth damps out vibrations.

With turning the water on and off you may be able to detect the transition in sound.

Perhaps you could over-pressurize the pipe so the leak becomes obvious but then you may shorten the life of the remaining pipe.

You could put a radioactive material with a half life of a few hours into the water and use a geiger counter, but I wouldn't ask nowadays for anything with the word "radioactive" in it.
Maybe some companies are licensed to use this technique.

If this were an electric cable you could use Time Domain Reflectometry.

Possibly a moisture meter like garden shops have could detect the local increase in water content in the soil.

I think you have to start digging :(

DUDE! 01-14-2010 05:39 PM

Just a guess but 7 gallons per 25 minutes, you should have a sink hole out in your front yard by now.

carl1864 01-14-2010 06:46 PM

I would have thought there would have been a sink hole too, yet there isn't even a part of the ground that's soggyer than the rest (other than that part where the neighbors sump pump was draining, by the meter. but I dug that up and don't see any leak in my pipe there).

From the research I've done sound listening devices do work. You can see a couple here that look very similar to stethoscopes, especially this one that isn't even electronic.

but also these

Those are all reduculously overpriced though. I figure, my pipe is only 40 feet long and no more than 12-18 inches underground, I'm thinking a stethoscope is worth a try.

After hours of searching though I still don't know which would be the best to use, since I cannot find a single comparison between a mechanics stethoscope and a medical stethoscope, or the digital mechanics stethoscope.

carl1864 01-14-2010 06:48 PM

Oh, and just to clarify, the ground isn't soggy anywhere. It has been raining every single day though so its wet everywhere. But yesterday it was dry the first half of the day, enough for the ground to dry out a bit, and there were no wet spots.

burnt03 01-14-2010 07:56 PM

If your meter is at the property line, shut off your main valve inside your house and check the meter again. If it's still running, the leak is outside. If the meter stops, the leak is inside the house.

If your water line is only 12-18" deep and the leak is outside, the cheapest route would be to trench a new line in (as long as you don't wreck too much landscaping). You could probably even hire a couple neighborhood kids if you don't want to rent a mini-excavator.

If the line sprung one leak, it's bound to spring another eventually, either through age, improper installation, etc. Might as well install a new one properly and you'll never have to worry about it again.

SPS-1 01-15-2010 11:58 AM

Well, you did the right thing then ---> you called the experts. Unfortunately, the experts were useless. I don't think you want to buy a stethoscope and learn how to use it properly ( the latter part probably being very important ). You need to find a better expert.
Not sure where to find one though, maybe the right plumber.
Not surprised the ground is not soggy. The water would have carved its own path to a drainage area.

SPS-1 01-15-2010 12:00 PM

Or.... call Pollard and ask them who in your area has these leak detectors.

12penny 01-15-2010 12:31 PM

...burnt has the right idea. Isolate the leak, either inside or out, if outside dig up the control unit for the sprinkler. Just because its unplugged doesnt mean it cant leak. I wouldnt dig up the waterline unless I had to. And theres no need for fancy listening devices.

Thurman 01-15-2010 12:31 PM

"the house has an irrigation system that I've never used" That would be my number one suspicion from the very beginning. The lawn irrigation system is tied into your water line somewhere after the water meter. With your un-cooperative neighbors discharging their water, it would be hard to find one or more sprinkler heads that are just dribbling. Usually, in my area, there would be a "vacuum breaker" for the sprinkler system which would be found at/near an outside wall close to where your main water line enters your home. There should be a cut-off valve at this point, should be I note! As "plummen" stated: IF there is a shut-off valve within your home, maybe in the basement if you have a basement, turn the water off there and see if the meter still turns. IF you cannot find a cut-off for the sprinkler system, and IF there is not a cut-off within the home, AND with your amount of water loss, I would not hesitate to remove the dirt over the main water line to look for a leak. Good Luck, David

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