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O/T: How to find an Underground Water Leak

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  • O/T: How to find an Underground Water Leak

    I have a 3/4" PVC line that makes a 50' run from the house across an open yard (leach field) and then splits off in several directions. I buried it about 35 years ago and a lot of changes have occurred through the years, so I'm not quite sure where it runs. I'm losing about a gallon every five minutes. No sign of leaking water, so it may be dumping into the leach field. Tried isolating the line (closing the feed shut off valve at the house) and back pressurizing the line with air (supposed to be easier to hear a leak?). No luck.

    Thought about buying some sort of professional leak detection equipment as I will have further need of same, but the gear appears to be unreasonably expensive. My water company is USELESS, so asking for help is a waste of time. I gave thought about a contact mike mounted to a rod driven into the ground, feeding an audio amplifier. Also thought to use a leak detection service, but I've heard less than praise. With the water running, I tried touching hose bibs connected to the line with the tip of a screwdriver and then pushing the handle against my ear to listen for running water. No luck there either. At this point, it seems my only option is to lay a new line, a nightmarish job.

    Anyone else have any ideas they can share that might help?

  • #2
    Well there are those who swear by dowsing (using a divining rod) to find water leaks. Personally I don't know if it works, but who knows. Certainly would not hurt to try and could save digging up your whole back yard.


    • #3
      Can you block the ends of the pipe, and used compressed air ?
      Then you should be able to hear it .
      Green Bay, WI


      • #4
        The water companies around here walk around at 2am with a long steel rod with a megaphone on the end of it ..

        they listen for the leaks ..and are more or less have 100 percent chance of finding it ..
        they send a contracting crew around within a couple of days of finding it ..
        dig the road up ..or use a mole thing ..and fix it within 2 hours.

        all the contractors that work for them are very efficient and very fast ..which is unusual in Britain .

        all the best.markj
        Last edited by aboard_epsilon; 04-16-2011, 05:56 PM.


        • #5
          run it for awhile and then poke into the soil to see where its suddenly very damp?

          Megaphone thing sounds like a good idea too.
          Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.


          • #6
            I have seen dowsing work to a degree but wonder if it would find standing water in the leach field as opposed to the leak.

            How deep is your water line burried ? Also can ypu access both ends ?

            Your sound amplification may work.

            It may be easier to install a new pipe but circumventing the leach field if possible. Other wise you may indeed have a nasty job on your hands.

            Just a thought.. would it be possible to run a cleaning snake into the line hoping it may hit the crack in the line and perhaps stopping so you could measure the distance to the interfearance point. This is just a "WAG" but it might work, nothing really lost if it doesn't.


            • #7
              Sounds would probably be the way to go.

              Dump some food colouring in the supply line, and wait to see where your grass turns colour


              • #8
                There are of course companies that do just that.

                I paid one last summer something on the order of $2-300 to find my leak. They back-filled the line with some gas (forgotten just what), and detected that.

                It seemed a bit expensive, for sure, but the leak was costing me an extra $50-60 a month on my water bill. So I was happy in the long run.

                After the leak was found, I then paid the plumber another $150 to fix it. But he gave me the advice to consult with my water company, and show them my past bills, along with his invoice, and the water company retroactively adjusted my bills the form of credits on future bills. So his bill turned out to be a bargain too, since I would never have thought to get a refund on the past bills.
                Lynn (Huntsville, AL)


                • #9
                  My water company is USELESS, so asking for help is a waste of time
                  That seems very strange, unless you're surrounded by an endless water source.
                  Down here in Texas we have drought conditions, and water-restrictions.
                  If you call the water company and report a leak, they're on it ASAP.


                  • #10

                    Do a search "finding a water leak in a buried line".
                    Winchman used math to find his.



                    • #11
                      Depending on the depth, it may be possible for a common metal detector to trace a steel electricians snake fed into the line. The snake may also detect a partial blockage if the leak is caused by some disturbance of the line, such as by tree roots. You may need to trace it from several ends, depending on the layout.

                      If you do have to replace it, include a piece of #12 insulated copper wire around it for future detection. Bring the ends of the wire up out of the ground where they are easily found.
                      Don Young


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pherdie
                        I have a 3/4" PVC line that makes a 50' run from the house across an open yard (leach field) and then splits off in several directions. ...
                        50 feet....come on... just replace it! But this time don't go under 1-inch diameter PVC and make sure it's at least schedule 40. When you dig it up make sure you follow the old line as you go so you'll be able to find where it splits off... as that is where you'll most likely find the leak.

                        Gosh 50 feet... one could start at the tap and almost dig that by hand! Good exercise for the heart! Naturally, you'll find the leak near the opposite end you start!
                        Last edited by Mike Burdick; 04-16-2011, 09:38 PM.


                        • #13
                          Fifty feet in backfill over a leach field? I woulld get a shovel and follow the line.
                          Our water utilities have listening devices that work. They are expensive if they are not readily avaliable. Some of that kind of instrumentation can be rented from the companies that rent expensive surveying equipment. The IR thermometers might give you a clue.
                          Byron Boucher
                          Burnet, TX


                          • #14
                            I have never tried this or heard of anybody else do this. But put vinegar or something with an odor, and non toxic in the line, and try smelling for it.
                            Just a thought for an idea.


                            • #15
                              What's a leach field?

                              Being a Brit, I just have to ask. What is a leach field? I thought that US medicine had moved on from using leaches!

                              Rgds. Ian.