This is a brief summary of how to locate a water leak in your front yard:
- Check the Water Meter: Start by turning off all water sources in your home, including faucets, appliances, and irrigation systems. Then, locate your water meter, usually positioned near the street or in your front yard.
- Observe the Meter: Check the water meter’s dial or digital display. If it continues to move, there may be a leak in your plumbing system.
- Shut Off the Main Valve: To confirm the presence of a leak, turn off the main water supply valve to your home. This valve is typically located in the basement, crawlspace, or near the water meter.
- Wait and Recheck: After turning off the main valve, wait for about 15 minutes. Recheck the water meter; if it continues to register usage, there is likely a leak.
- Visual Inspection: Examine your front yard for wet or soggy areas, unusual puddles, or areas with lush vegetation that don’t match the rest of your lawn. These can be signs of a hidden water leak.
- Listen for Sounds: Walk around the yard and listen for the sound of running or dripping water. A leak may sometimes be audible, especially if it’s close to the surface.
- Use a Metal Probe or Rod: Insert a metal probe or a long rod into the ground around the suspected area. If the probe easily penetrates moist soil, it can indicate a leak below.
- Check for Sunken Areas: Sunken or depressed areas in your yard could be caused by soil erosion due to a leak beneath the surface.
- Consult a Professional: If you’re unable to locate the leak or if it’s beyond your expertise to repair, contact a professional plumber or a leak detection specialist. They have the necessary tools and experience to pinpoint and repair the issue.
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/Sprinkler 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.