What do I do if My Yard is Leaking Water?
Water leaks are very expensive problems to have. Not only do they dramatically increase your water bills, they also cost money to fix to fix.
If you suspect (or know for a fact) that there is a water leak in your front yard, it will either be in your service line or irrigation system. It is not always easy to tell the exact location of the leak but I will show you how to do that in this post.
If you have a water leak in your front yard, the first thing you should do is immediately turn off your main water shut off valve. From there you can decide to call in a professional plumber or fix the leak yourself.
To find a water leak in your front yard, turn off the main shut off valve and check the water meter reading. If water is still passing through the meter, you have a leak in your service line. The leak is in your irrigation system if no water is passing through the water meter.
The signs of water leaks in a front yard include high water bills, low water pressure, sink holes in the yard, wet spots or pooling water in the yard. You may also have air or dirt coming from your faucets.
A service line is the main water line from the street to your house which is buried in your front yard. It is connected from the water meter (near the street) to the main shut off valve.
The homeowner is responsible for the service line. This means if there is leak in your front yard you will have to pay the cost of fixing it and cannot call the city department to fix it. The city is responsible for the section of pipe connecting the water supply pipes to the water meter.
Unfortunately, homeowners insurance does not cover the main water line. This means that if you have a leak in your front yard as a result of an old or pipe, you will have to foot the repair cost yourself, unless the pipe has experienced a sudden damage, not caused by old age or poor installation.
Let us now look at how you can find out the source of water leak in your front yard.
How to check if the Leak is in your Service Line
As I have already mentioned, the service line is connected from the water meter near the street to the nearest wall of you house, on the side facing the street.
The service line can run underground all the way to the inside of the house (usually in the basement) or it may emerge from the ground near the wall of the house where a shut off valve and/or pressure reducing valve will be installed. That is also where the irrigation system branches off.
This is how to check if the leak in your front yard is in the service line:
1. Turn off the Main Shut off Valve
You house’s main shut off valve turns on and off water to the entire house. It is usually located in the basement, crawlspace, garage or a utility room, usually very close to the water heater. You can also find it on an external wall where the main water line enters the house.
To turn off water to the house, turn the valve handle all the way clockwise if it is a gate valve. For a ball valve, move the lever so that it is perpendicular to the water pipe.
By so doing, you have ensured that no water will be flowing to your house.
You will now need to only turn off the irrigation or sprinkler system water shut off valve. This will also ensure that no water will be flowing to your irrigation.
Please note that the last statement applies if your irrigation systems taps right into the main service line before the shut off valve. If your irrigation system is installed past the shut off valve you should ignore the last step.
With the above steps, you will have isolated the service line. The water meter will now help you know if there is a any leak on the service line.
2. Read the Water meter
You water meter will most likely be located very close to the street near the sidewalk or curb. It will be inside a hole covered using a metal or plastic lid labeled “Water Meter” or just “Water”.
Use a long screwdriver to open the lid, being careful as it is not unusual to find snakes, spiders or just about any other animal taking shelter underneath the lid.
Use a rag to wipe the face of the meter so that you can clearly see the numbers. A digital water meter is very easy to read and if the numbers are changing (albeit slowly) then it is a sign that there is leak on the service line.
With an analogue water meter, look for the low flow indicator, also known as a leak detector. This is a small red or blue triangle that may also look like a gear wheel.
If this device is spinning, it means that water is still passing through the water meter and therefore there is a leak in your service line.
For meters without a low flow indicator, you will need to read the meter reading then wait for a period of 30 minutes to see if there is a change in reading. Check out this post for more on how to read a water meter.
3. Locate the Leak
If you have found out that indeed the leak is in the service line, the next question you will ask yourself is where exactly in the service line the leak is. This is unless you have sink holes or a water pool in your yard which is a guide to where exactly the leak is.
There are 2 places where leaks often occur in the service line:
- Shut off valve connection. The pipe connected to your shut off valve is usually copper. But that is not to say that you have a copper pipe running all the way to the water meter. The copper pipe is connected to a PVC or galvanized steel (corroded) pipe and that junction could be the cause of the leak. Dig up and find out.
- Fittings/Junctions. Water companies try to keep the service line as straight as possible but if there are turns where fittings are used, that is most likely where the leak is. Joints, where 2 pipe sections are joined together are another area that are prone to leaks.
How to check if the Water Leak is in Your Irrigation System
If the leak is not in the service line, it is time to check if the leak is in the irrigation system. To isolate the irrigation system, it will depend on how the pipe connections are made.
If the irrigation system is connected below or before the main shut off valve, you will need to make sure that the valve remains turned off and then go ahead to turn on the irrigation system shut off valve.
If the irrigation system shut off valve is installed above or after the main house shut off valve you will need to open the valve and make sure that there is not faucet opened or appliance running inside the house.
You cannot even flush the toilet or take shower during this test. However, make sure that the irrigation system shut off valve is open.
Now head over to the water meter and check if there is water passing through it. If indeed there is water passing through the water meter, there is a leak in your irrigation systems.
With an irrigation system, the leak is in most cases found between the backflow preventer and the irrigation valve box or bad valve inside the valve box.
You can also try to isolate your stations and manually cycle through each one at a time from the system controller.
Be on the lookout for a large amount of water gushing from the ground over the active area which would be caused by a broken sprinkler head.
Fixing a leak in your front yard is not easy. It involves digging and in most cases replacing a section of a pipe. Unless you know where to dig, you might end up digging the entire length of your yard.
This is why I would recommend that you get a professional to do it. Professional plumbers will pump air through your service line and use special devices to listen in where the air is leaking from.
This service is not cheap but sometimes it is the only way especially if the service line or irrigation line is installed under a slab or driveway.