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Troubleshooting a leak in a latteral line

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by JimLewis, May 19, 2005.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Suppose you suspect maybe there is a leak in a latteral line. Not the main line. You can tell that that is not leaking (e.g. by checking the water meter.) But for some reason or another (e.g. lawn is abnormally wet in certain areas...or maybe customer's water bill is higher than usual, etc.) you think maybe there's a leak in one of the latteral zones. How do your troubleshoot this?

    Assume, obviously, that even though you suspect a leak - you have no obvious evidence of it. That is, you don't see water bubbling up anywhere under the lawn, etc.

    The only thing I can think of is to go to each zone that runs through that area and turn the heads on that zone completely off. Then open the valve for that zone, let it pressurize, and check the water meter again. If there is no leak, the water meter guage should stop moving as soon as that zone is pressurized.

    But this method is kind of a major PITA. Especially if you have to do it for 3 or 4 or 5 zones. Turning off each head, opening the valve, checking the water meter, closing the valve and then turning back on the flow on each head and adjusting the distance all over again? Then to have to do this whole process AGAIN for each zone???

    Is there a better way?
  2. PLM-1

    PLM-1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,640

    LOL...thought we were gonna talk about septic tanks! I was gonna say, they are supposed to leak!
  3. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,570

    that's why i like the hunter I-20's or any other head with a in head shutoff... you can turn the system on and just shut the head off and go look at your meter.
  4. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,781

    IF you can estimate gpm, compare what you *think* you should have for the zones in question vs what the meter shows. Put your pressure guage back on, even at the hose bib, and run the system. Does the pressure drop more than you would expect on a given zone? Once you have narrowed down your choice of zones to one zone, the shut them off or cap them. Yeah, it is a lot of work, but your getting paid for it, right? If the leak isn't worth the money you are charging them, then forget it. It is just a lateral.
  5. Instant Rain

    Instant Rain LawnSite Member
    Messages: 54

    Sometimes wet spots in a lawn are caused by poor drainage(low spots, clay soil) in combination with over watering. look at the lay of the land. does the water have any where to go or is it just going to pool in that area. and make sure the timer is set to a realistic watering time. If the low spot isn"t too bad you may be able to tamp a furrow to a lower potion of the lawn. If its real bad you may be able to sell a drain to get rid of the problem.
  6. kerdog

    kerdog LawnSite Member
    Messages: 129

    How would you 'cap' off a spray or a rotor? If you were looking for leaks in laterals. Is there a way, even if it is time consuming, to do it? Other than pulling the head and plugging line outlet?

    See ya---kerdog
  7. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,794

    Hunter makes nozzle "blanks" for plugging a PGP, and if you use a filter like your supposed to in a rainbird spray, all you have to do is screw down the screw on the nozzle.
  8. kerdog

    kerdog LawnSite Member
    Messages: 129

    Yep, I see it in the catalog, the blank is included with the set of low angle nozzles. (Hunter, that is) Besides the blank for the PGP, and the I-20 and RB 5000+, is that it?
    I was hoping for a cap that would thread onto spray bodies.
    Like Jim Lewis, I too have wondered how one would find or know of a small leak on a zone. Thanks Jon....

    See ya---kerdog
  9. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    If it is small enough that it doesn't show up? If it is of any size at all, you will notice it in the performance of that zone.

    I'm assuming Jim Lewis, that one of your clients has mentioned that their water bill is extremely high lately and they want to know if it is their system? Every time I hear that, I estimate how many gallons per minute each zone is using...multiply that by the amount of minutes the zone runs per month based on their settings on the timer...and then come up with a "gallons" used per month estimate for their sprinkler system. They can then compare that with their bill and see for themselves if the sprinkler system is at fault. They can look at winter bills versus summer bills to see if their is a giant jump in water usage in the warmer months.

    I really believe that if the leak is big enough, it will show itself eventually. Don't you?
  10. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,781

    How big do you think it has to be before it "shows" itself? I just finished fixing one the plumber had to hunt for. It showed up on the water bill and the meter but it never surfaced. The plumber gave the home owner the run around about this leak for 5 years. This leak was 12-15 gph. It never surfaced. If it can happen in a residential main, it can happen in the sprinkler system.

    As to capping heads.......I do it the hard way. If I know I'm looking for a lateral leak that isn't obvious, then I cap heads. FA glued to a piece of pipe with a cap on it for each head. I like about a foot long so they stick up. Unscrew the head and screw on the capped pipe. Now, not only are they capped, but they are "flagged" too.

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