I think I have a leak... what should I do?

Please be aware that if a leak/break occurs from the back of the meter towards your home or on any lines leading from the back of the meter throughout your home/yard cannot be repaired by the water department.  We cannot repair lines that are considered "private" lines such as these.  If the leak is on the front of the meter or is one of our main lines in the street, please give us a call as soon as possible. It is important that we repair this quickly to avoid the leak becoming larger and possibly further damaging the lines or homes.  Please be aware that all water that goes through the meter will be billed accordingly.  It is advised that you check your property frequently to inspect your pipes/sprinkling system for breaks/leaks.  

Leaks in an irrigation system can occur in several places. Most leaks occur because a valve fails to shut completely, but leaks in system pipes are not unheard of. Broken heads, while not technically a “leak”, waste water when the system is operating. Indications of leakage include overgrown or particularly green areas of turf, soggy areas around spray heads and aboveground hoses, jammed spray heads, and torn hoses. In drip systems, leakage problems may be the result of tubing or tape that have been damaged by foot traffic of gnawing and chewing animals. Common sources of leaks are a toilet that is running, a constant drip in a sink or outdoor faucet, a loose or dripping washer connection, a home water treatment unit, an evaporative cooler unit, or a sprinkler system. To detect a leak in your irrigation system, you must shut down all water use inside your home and be fairly certain that there is no leakage occurring indoors. Once you have done this, you can use your water meter to see if any water continues to flow into your system.

Method 1 - Turn off all water taps inside and outside your home. Record the meter reading and return in two to three hours to check for movement. If the meter reading has changed, you may have a leak.

Method 2 - Many meters have a small red (or blue) triangle on the meter face, designed to detect even small leaks. If this red triangle is moving when you have all water off inside and outside your home, you may have a leak.

Shutting off Water at Your Meter

Should you need to shut off the supply of water to your house (to repair a leak, etc.) there is usually a shutoff valve right at the water meter. The water meter shutoff valve typically looks like a brass bolt located on the pipe connected to the water meter. Often this bolt will have an arrow stamped into the top indicating the direction of flow. To shut off the water supply, use a large pair of pliers to turn the bolt 90 degrees. You can check to make sure that the water is off by operating a faucet or hose bib. To restore the water supply to your home, simply turn the bolt back to the position you found it. DO THIS SLOWLY AND DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN, this may break the valve. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask DVAWC to come turn this valve on/off for you. 

Step 1First, locate your meter box. It is generally located near in front of your home. Its important to make sure the meter box lid is uncovered and visible at all times. A black square disc on the lid provides the signal to the meter reader with an electronic signal - a ‘radio read.

Step 2Turn all water-using appliances off so that no water is being used. This means turning off all water inside and outside the house including showers, sinks, washing machines, ice makers and any appliance that uses water. If you have an automatic irrigation system, turn off the controller. Carefully remove the meter box lid by using a tool such as a large screwdriver. Stand back. There are sometimes ‘critters’ inside the box that will be startled when the lid is removed. Give them a chance to get out of the way. The meter uses a straight-reading dial which is read similar to a cars odometer. The meter measures water use in thousands of gallons. The small pointer or dial near the center of the meter is the flow indicator and should not move if you are not using any water inside or outside the home. If the flow indicator is moving, you may have a leak. In leaky toilets, the flapper valve often needs to be replaced.

Step 3If there is no indicator and the actual meter dial hand is moving, water is running somewhere in your system and you have a leak – go to step 4. If the hand is not moving, note the position of the hand and wait 10 minutes. Check the meter again, if it has moved, you have a slow leak - go to step 4. If no movement is recorded, you probably dont have a leak. The meter may not be able to detect leaks in irrigation systems or pools.

Step 4To isolate the leak, turn the water off to your house. Your homes valve is usually located under the outside faucet near the front of the house. With all water turned off in the house, there should be no movement of the small pointer or any of the dials on the meter.

Step 5 - If the leak indicator or dial is still moving, water is flowing between the meter and the shut-off valve. That means you could have a leak between the meter and the valve where water enters your home. This is called the ‘service line. Consider that movement in your meter can also be caused by things like an automatic pool filler, a leaky irrigation valve, or an evaporative cooler.

Step 6Check your irrigation system. If you have leaks in your irrigation system, they may not be noticeable unless your system is running. Turn your controller on manually and walk your property looking for broken sprinkler heads, missing emitters (which will produce small streams of water) or breaks in irrigation piping or tubing. You can also have someone watch the meter and calculate the gallons per station while someone changes each sprinkler station in order to isolate the general area for a leak.  Check for leaks inside the house including toilets, washing machines, faucets, etc.

Step 7To check a toilet for a leak: Add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring to the water in the reservoir or tank (as shown in Figure 1). Wait 15-30 minutes. If the water in the bowl changes colors, the rubber flapper needs to be replaced. In leaky toilets, the flapper valve often needs to be replaced.

Step 8Congratulate yourself! You have just completed a leak-detection investigation.


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