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OT: Finding a water leak in a buried line.

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  • OT: Finding a water leak in a buried line.

    I got a notice from the city utilities several days ago that my water consumption had spiked from an average of 5000 gallons a month to almost 18,000 gallons a month. I could actually see the sweep hand on the meter moving with everything turned off.

    I didn't find anything amiss inside or under the house. It had rained for the two days before I got the notice, so the wet ground masked anything going on outside. To make matters worse, it's almost 200 feet from the meter/shutoff box to where the pipe goes under the house. We bought the house a couple years ago, so I had no idea where the line had been installed around the old trees in the yard.

    To buy some time, I bought 3/4" PVC and several fittings, and put in a temporary line from the street to the house. That stopped the meter from spinning, but I still had to locate and fix the leak.

    The yard slopes downhill quite a bit from the house to the street. I capped the line at the street, and put a short riser on the end at the house so I wouldn't have to work in the hole. I filled the line with water, then used the air compressor to pressurize the line. I knew that only the water above the level of the leak would be forced out.

    I disconnected the compressor, and carefully measured the amount of water needed to refill the line. I repeated the procedure to check the results. A little math told me the leak was only fourteen feet from the house end of the line.

    I took a chance the the line went straight out from the house, and dug a hole with my posthole diggers. Bingo!! I could hear the air hiss of escaping air. There was a slip-joint there with a split in the area where the pipe is flared to make the bell. Here's a picture of the leak:



    The amount I've spent so far for the temporary line and all the stuff needed to make the repairs and put the system back in operation is less than the bill for one hour of a plumber's labor.

    Roger
    Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.

  • #2
    Clever method.

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    • #3
      How did you decide when all the water had been forced out - i.e. how long did you apply the compressed air?

      It's clever - good thinking! Had a leak in a water line at the farm once. It wasn't too hard to find. We knew where the lines were laid so you just walk along with a stick and listen. When you hit the right area, it's either all mushy or you hear a sound like a bee's nest.

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      • #4
        trenches, pits, underground wires and pipes are easy to find with coat hanger dowsing rods. I do it all the time. My wife and I locate grave sites in cemeteries also.

        That was a clever trick of figuring out how far out the lead was. I will have to store that one for future use.
        It's only ink and paper

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        • #5
          Pretty slick. Now, I want to know where 13,000 gallons of water a month has gone.


          Uh oh. Dowsing....
          Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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          • #6
            That's rather ingenious! Usually I see the city water works people listening for a water main leak with headphones and a ground microphone...and even then it's sometimes hit or miss finding it.
            Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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            • #7
              I just let the compressor cycle several times, then shut it off. I don't have a tank, so it didn't take very long to bleed down. Air leaks faster than water, so the cycling rate went up when the air got to the leak.

              The pipe was two feet down in sandy clay, so hearing the leak (without a detector) or seeing a wet spot was pretty iffy, especially since it had rained so recently.

              I was surprised to see no cavity had been washed out around the leak. Our house is on some of the highest ground around, and the soil drains pretty well. It's about a six-foot drop from the house to the water meter box.

              I was lucky the leak was in the steepest area. My method wouldn't be very accurate on nearly flat ground.

              Roger
              Last edited by winchman; 11-17-2009, 09:12 PM.
              Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.

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              • #8
                have you ever listened to a leaking pipe, 1/4 steel rod, 1" disk welded to end, stick it on the pipe and listen.....yes it works honest, you can hear the leak.
                mark

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                • #9
                  Good, clever thinking. I'll stash that one away in my memory banks, and when I need to find a leak, I'll completely forget the whole thing and dig up a mile or so of pipe...or it will seem like a mile anyway.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by winchman
                    I was lucky the leak was in the steepest area. My method wouldn't be very accurate on nearly flat ground.

                    Roger


                    I was going to question you about that,,, Very unique -- I think it interesting how people approach different problems and lots of it revolves around what they've done for a living such, I know how I would have went about it, leave the water on and grab my stethoscope...

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                    • #11
                      That brings back memories. I started hearing the water pump (under the house) running every few minutes, with no taps open, etc. Nothing visible, so it had to be up the line somewhere. The first 20 ft or so was easy- no wet ground and little noise. A few digs turned up dry pipe. The next 30 ft was blackberry bushes, and right at the start of that it was wet. Bingo- or at least hmm, maybe it's close to here. Started hacking and digging, but for every foot of pipe exposed there was no leak.

                      Long story short, I hacked and dug right through the blackberries, thinking 'it has to be right here' cause it was getting wetter all the time. Then- it got dry. What the- Then I went right to the wellhead and I could hear it, so- pulled up the twin pipes and the pump to check it all over. No leaks. There was only about 20 ft of ground left to dig, so dig I did and found the leak.

                      No word of a lie, I was maybe 10 or so when our landlord cut off our water cause he was a jerk. We had to have a well punched and I watched the whole operation. At one point, as they were running the plastic line, one of them kinked. They put it in like that and it lasted about the next 20 years. The kink is where it finally let go, and in hindsight, I knew that they had made a weak spot there.

                      Anyway, the leaking water had a place to enter the ground and must have run a ways before it came closer to the surface. From there it just ran alongside the pipes til it dropped lower into the ground again. What a hassle that was.
                      I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                      • #12
                        Oh, yeah, there's a bit more to the story. Once they had hit water and punched deep enough to place the pump properly, they hooked it all up and wanted to open an outside tap to let it run til it was clean. Dad said 'don't bother opening the tap, just let the pump run. The guys didn't know where the water was going, but it was pumping and going somewhere. They thought there had to be a problem, but dad said just let it run.

                        Long story shorter, it was running back into the line that the landlord had cut off- but he never capped his end of the line. All the water, mud, and sand was running into his pumphouse. Since I was just a kid, and played with this guys grandchildren, I got to see the pumphouse. Ha ha ha. half full of crap. Served him right.
                        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by boslab
                          have you ever listened to a leaking pipe, 1/4 steel rod, 1" disk welded to end, stick it on the pipe and listen.....yes it works honest, you can hear the leak.
                          mark
                          For years in the trade I just used a shovel. Stick the end in the soil and my ear to the end of the handle. We electricians use a fish steel and have a guy keep popping the end of it up against the obstruction. You can find a collapsed pipe 4' underground that way. I imagine that the shovel or similar trick with the air pressure would do the same thing.

                          Good thinkin' on the fly.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by winchman
                            I got a notice from the city utilities several days ago that my water consumption had spiked from an average of 5000 gallons a month to almost 18,000 gallons a month. I could actually see the sweep hand on the meter moving with everything turned off.

                            There was a slip-joint there with a split in the area where the pipe is flared to make the bell. Here's a picture of the leak:



                            Roger
                            Call Me a skeptic Roger, but...... I can't see 13000 gal. a month going through that small crack. I think once You have everything fixed , a pressure gauge and a ''pump up'' static test would make Me sleep better if I were You.



                            Steve

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                            • #15
                              I like the method.

                              never had anything make as much of a monkey of me as finding a leak in a well pump pipe running across a field about 3 foot deep. had water boiling up in different spots, not a one of them anywhere NEAR the leak.

                              13000 gallons a month?

                              That's about a liter a minute...... COULD maybe get through that crack, if you have pretty good pressure, like HIGH pressure... Maybe if that crack opens up under pressure.

                              Seems like a lot.....
                              1601

                              Keep eye on ball.
                              Hashim Khan

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