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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We were away for four months and our first two water and sewer bills reflected that at $50 and 4 Ccf. The water to the house was turned off at the valve and the irrigation and pool valve was left on. We came home for 9 days and turned the house supply back on. Then we left for three weeks and turned the house supply back off. While gone we received a $555 bill (50 Ccf) for the prior month. When we got back I turned the house supply back on and read the meter. It was reading nearly a gallon a minute, with nothing on in the house or the yard. I double checked everything over a two-hour period, turning off the house supply again, with the same result... the meter was reading 0.88 gallons per minute flow. I then turned both valves, interior and exterior, off. The meter went to 0.0 and stayed there for 15 minutes while I again inspected all water sources. I turned both valves back on and the meter still read 0.0, which it should've read before. Since turning the valves on and off the meter seems to be reading correctly... 0.0 when everything is off and up to 0.8 when a toilet is flushed, a faucet on, or the irrigation (drip only) system on. It has been three weeks of proper reading, but for six weeks prior I calculated that it was stuck at 0.88 gallons per minute. 37,000 gallons the first month and 31,000 gallons the second month. The obvious answer was "leak". But how did a six-week leak "fix" itself by just turning the valves on and off? Where could 37,000 gallons go in a month? The pool service company said the water make up was performing as expected and that amount of water would fill our pool four times over in a month. My landscaper said the irrigation timer is operating correctly and never saw any signs of flooding. The water company just sent me a 40-day hourly consumption spreadsheet... Until the exact hour that I turned the valves on and off, the meter was reading 0.88 or more, 24/7, for 30 of the 40 days of data they provided me. The last ten days showed flow rates comparable to the first seven months of the year while we occupied the house... 4 to 8 Ccf total per month, not 50 and 41 for the last two months respectively. Why only 41 the last month? Because part of that month was after I turned the valves on and off.
Now the water company comes ups with... toilet was running (impossible because house supply turned off. Toilets were dry when we returned). Undergfound leak. 37,000 gallons in a month would be noticeable on a small lot, besides, how did I stop the leak? Our digital meters are accurate! I agree. The technology is very accurate, BUT... that doesn't mean your meter can't malfunction. So I guess I'm looking for someone with the expertise on the newer meters (this one is four years old on a new house build), or someone who has had a similar experience. LOGIC is not the forte of the customer service department at my water utility and they refuse to let me speak to a technical person. They sent a drive by truck to test the meter and said it is operating normally. OF COURSE IT IS! I FIXED IT! 馃槀
 

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I read the title - the answer is, YES, all things can break.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You totally lost me with your description of events.

But if your recent water consumption is out of line, request that the meter be replaced.
They told me they would test it. If it passed, I would have to pay. It's working fine now, so probably a temporary malfunction. Basically, it got stuck 24/7 at an hourly rate of 0.88 gallons per minute, and didn't return to normal until I turned my valves off and then back on again. Customer service can't see my point of exactly the same amount of water running 24/7 for six weeks, and then suddenly going back to normal. I'm considering turning the house valve off again and then trying to get it to malfunction again... and THEN call them out while it's stuck!
 

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I finally read more of the original post. OP mentioned shutting off inside and outside valves - so.... Sounds like a stuck irrigation valve or automatic pool fill valve.

I wonder what the water pressure is... or if it's even regulated.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Automatic fill valve checked out okay by pool service. Water pressure at 60 psi, regulated. Irrigation on timer that is operating normally. Irrigation is on a minimum drip system, so I would think it physically impossible to do that quantity. But the pool fill valve will be looked at again. Thanks. Good thinking.
 

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Automatic fill valve checked out okay by pool service. Water pressure at 60 psi, regulated. Irrigation on timer that is operating normally. Irrigation is on a minimum drip system, so I would think it physically impossible to do that quantity. But the pool fill valve will be looked at again. Thanks. Good thinking.
We've had irrigation in several homes. On ours there were main 1" and 3/4" PVC pipes in the ground to bring the water from the control valve to the area to water. From there a riser/coupling/etc. would have the 1/4" drips or soakers (or in ground heads for the lawn and multiple shrubs). From experience, I do know that moles will each through buried PVC and plastic lines - plus a few drip heads blown off or an end cap on a 1/2" primary line can make the bills add up quickly. Luckily, when looking at a similar $000 bill for water, we found the soaked place in the ground and tore out and replaced the 15' of line that the cute little moles had chewed through - And, even luckier, the water company had a policy of "forgiving" a one-time event due to documented equipment failure.

I would suggest you check the rate of consumption (using inside and outside valves to isolate zones) and walk the irrigation lines each time. Perhaps a Saturday task for a month or two?

I just thought, my current neighbor has a water softener system. It malfunctioned and had been stuck in the regenerate/flush cycle for days and days until I noticed the flooded lawn between out houses... Maybe? Those work on timers so it might not be calling for water when you were checking?

Good luck - leaks and phantoms are hard to find.

P.S. does you neighbor have a pool and a long hose?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So you believe the pool service when they say "our equipment is working properly", but not the water company ?
Yes, because I inspected all possible causes myself AND the meter began operating properly after I turned the valves off and on AND the pool autofill is operating normally. The pool service company is different from the pool builder, so they would have no reason to lie.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
We've had irrigation in several homes. On ours there were main 1" and 3/4" PVC pipes in the ground to bring the water from the control valve to the area to water. From there a riser/coupling/etc. would have the 1/4" drips or soakers (or in ground heads for the lawn and multiple shrubs). From experience, I do know that moles will each through buried PVC and plastic lines - plus a few drip heads blown off or an end cap on a 1/2" primary line can make the bills add up quickly. Luckily, when looking at a similar $000 bill for water, we found the soaked place in the ground and tore out and replaced the 15' of line that the cute little moles had chewed through - And, even luckier, the water company had a policy of "forgiving" a one-time event due to documented equipment failure.

I would suggest you check the rate of consumption (using inside and outside valves to isolate zones) and walk the irrigation lines each time. Perhaps a Saturday task for a month or two?

I just thought, my current neighbor has a water softener system. It malfunctioned and had been stuck in the regenerate/flush cycle for days and days until I noticed the flooded lawn between out houses... Maybe? Those work on timers so it might not be calling for water when you were checking?

Good luck - leaks and phantoms are hard to find.

P.S. does you neighbor have a pool and a long hose?
LOL... I like the "long hose" comment!
IF there was an issue of a leak somewhere between the meter and the irrigation or the pool, why did the constant flow for six weeks suddenly stop when I turned the valves off and back on??? The valve to the house was turned off the entire time, so there couldn't be anything like toilets leaking causing the problem.
All logic points to the meter, since it has been operating and recording normally since I tweaked the valves. There were several severe electrical storms here in the desert when this problem started. Perhaps that tweaked the meter. 30 out of 40 days of the hourly consumption data the water company provided me shows a constant flow at a gallon per minute. It can't physically be possible for my small drip system to dump 37,000 gallons in a month. The drip system has only one zone since it's desert landscape. No critter holes in my landscaping either.
I've had ALL of my water-related entities come check it out... pool company, pool service, landscaper, water softener and RO system guy... They all point to a meter malfunction.
I will at a minimum get the one-time forgiveness from the water company. Thanks, Domo, you've been the most helpful here.
 

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LOL... I like the "long hose" comment!
IF there was an issue of a leak somewhere between the meter and the irrigation or the pool, why did the constant flow for six weeks suddenly stop when I turned the valves off and back on??? The valve to the house was turned off the entire time, so there couldn't be anything like toilets leaking causing the problem.
All logic points to the meter, since it has been operating and recording normally since I tweaked the valves. There were several severe electrical storms here in the desert when this problem started. Perhaps that tweaked the meter. 30 out of 40 days of the hourly consumption data the water company provided me shows a constant flow at a gallon per minute. It can't physically be possible for my small drip system to dump 37,000 gallons in a month. The drip system has only one zone since it's desert landscape. No critter holes in my landscaping either.
I've had ALL of my water-related entities come check it out... pool company, pool service, landscaper, water softener and RO system guy... They all point to a meter malfunction.
I will at a minimum get the one-time forgiveness from the water company. Thanks, Domo, you've been the most helpful here.
You're welcome.

If I understand correctly;

1. You went on a trip and turned off the valve to the house. You left the irrigation and pool line valve ON.

2. You came home for 9 days and turned the house on so you could stay there.

3. You left for another three weeks and turned off the house when you left.

4. You got the big bill!!!!

5. When you got home you turned on the house valve (the irrigation and pool are STILL on) and you read 0.88 gpm.

6. You turned off the house valve and the meter still showed 0.88 gpm - Therefore, the house has nothing to do with it.

7. You turned off BOTH valves and the meter dropped to 0.0 gpm.

8. You turned BOTH valves off and the meter stayed at 0.0 gpm.

9. The problem went away, immediately after TURNING OFF THE IRRIGATION AND POOL WATER.

As I said, you had a stuck irrigation head - or pool auto fill. I'd actually lean towards the fill valve for the pool - I've seen them stick, wether they are a float valve (similar to a toilet tank), or a floating switch on a wire or a float with a mechanical valve. (There are three basic kinds and they can all get hung up on weeds, algae, corrosion of the brass float/arm mechanism, and frog body parts - I've seen it.)

You should blame the pool valve as the likely culprit.

Nothing changed in the meter - it's just a whirligig that twirls when the water flows (for simplicity from this electrical engineer) - no flow, no change in reading. The weakest link in your system is the pool fill valve.

Each of the pictured valves relay on a pivot that can be compromised or corroded.
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You're welcome.

If I understand correctly;

1. You went on a trip and turned off the valve to the house. You left the irrigation and pool line valve ON.

2. You came home for 9 days and turned the house on so you could stay there.

3. You left for another three weeks and turned off the house when you left.

4. You got the big bill!!!!

5. When you got home you turned on the house valve (the irrigation and pool are STILL on) and you read 0.88 gpm.

6. You turned off the house valve and the meter still showed 0.88 gpm - Therefore, the house has nothing to do with it.

7. You turned off BOTH valves and the meter dropped to 0.0 gpm.

8. You turned BOTH valves off and the meter stayed at 0.0 gpm.

9. The problem went away, immediately after TURNING OFF THE IRRIGATION AND POOL WATER.

As I said, you had a stuck irrigation head - or pool auto fill. I'd actually lean towards the fill valve for the pool - I've seen them stick, wether they are a float valve (similar to a toilet tank), or a floating switch on a wire or a float with a mechanical valve. (There are three basic kinds and they can all get hung up on weeds, algae, corrosion of the brass float/arm mechanism, and frog body parts - I've seen it.)

You should blame the pool valve as the likely culprit.

Nothing changed in the meter - it's just a whirligig that twirls when the water flows (for simplicity from this electrical engineer) - no flow, no change in reading. The weakest link in your system is the pool fill valve.

Each of the pictured valves relay on a pivot that can be compromised or corroded. View attachment 673633
View attachment 673632
View attachment 673631
It is an electromagnetic digital water valve, so I don't believe there are any moving parts. I could be wrong, but it seems the new, modern meters aimed to get rid of moving parts.
I checked with the pool builder and there is no overflow line to the sewer. They said if the auto fill was constantly on at that rate, and 37,000 gallons were counted for a month, my pool would've been overflowing and flooding my yard. No such thing happened. Also the pool maintenance guy said the pool was operating correctly on each of his weekly visits. I have video on the pool and checked the backyard daily while away and the pool level was always the same. Upon my first and second return I would've noticed either 1) the auto fill valve gushing water (very noisy) or 2) soggy ground on the premises. A complete inspection of the grounds upon each return, to make sure no critters or damage from storms, revealed nothing out of the ordinary in the pool or landscape. Only when I received the electronic bill while waiting for my flight home from trip #2 did I realize there was an issue.
To go from 4,000 gallons a month to 37,000 gallons a month with no occupancy is quite a jump.
Reviewing the hourly consumption data, you can see the exact hour where I turned the valves off and on.
Our pool float is of the first variety you've depicted. I checked it again today and it is very free moving. Chamber is clear and clean. Again, I would've heard it if it was stuck in the fill position because it is very noisy in that position when filling at a gallon per minute. Sounds like a jet plane taking off!
This morning I came to your same conclusion... The Pool Filler! BUT then the builder returned my call and looked at my specs (pool only three years old) and told me that there is no overfill line to the sewer, and the fact that overfilling at that rate would've overflowed my pool and flooded the yard within a week... even with summer evaporation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Does it have a power supply running to it ?
If not, it almost certainly has moving parts to detect water flow.
Yes. It is wired up. It's only three years old in a new community. State of the art digital, electronic meter. Transmits reads to the home office of the water company. To "test" it, they had a tech "drive by" and see if it was operating correctly. You think they would let the tech get out of the truck to chat with me? Nope. They're afraid to let anybody technical talk to me (EE also). They've just let me deal with clerks so far... no understanding of what they're even sending me. I can't count how many times I was asked, "Are you sure the toilets weren't running that whole time?" after telling them the water to the house was completely shut off...
 

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You're not understanding your troubleshooting.

It was running at 0.88 gpm UNTIL you turned off both the house (which you had already eliminated as a suspect) and the irrigation/pool. You killed the pressure in the irrigation and pool lines allowing any stuck valve (pool fill) to reset. Then when you turned the valves back on the meter read 0.0 gpm. You didn't touch the meter - your only removed pressure from the irrigation/pump lines.

It is not the meter.
 
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