Sprinkler system underground leak help

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Yep, got a leak somewhere. Did the timing thing with the water meter and found the three largest zones use most of the water.
My Problem: water bill came to $400.00 one month and $500.00 the next month. Stopped using the sprinklers and dropped to $50 - $60/Mo. My Guess: underground sprinkler leak My Question: What is the easiest way to check the lines for a leak? My Answer (up for review): Take out the sprinkler heads in each zone and cap off the line, run the sprinkler water and see if meter turns.
Need help to see if this is the best way to check the lines, or will a divining rod be better? Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
Dave FL
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is it always wet by the sprinkler heads?
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jthread" wrote:

A cople of the larger sprinkler heads dribble a little water out while running, but I don't have any real wet spots and the sprinkler pressure doesn't seem any lower
Dave FL
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check your valves. sounds to me they are getting stuck. they have to be maintained anyway. if a section is dribbling it's not closing all the way.
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jthread wrote:

Sorry, what I meant by dribbling was when the zone is on a couple of sprinkler heads dribble water between the top and the shaft. Does this sound right?
Dave FL
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not really. i read your post below and i got to admit i'm stumped. when they leak it's usually a valve. if your water is hard it can cause them to fail pretty quickly. keep at it. it's not that complicated someone will help you. :)
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Dave FL wrote:

Feel the supply lines (to sprinklers) at the manifolds. The pipe will be cooler if water is running (leak) than when not since the ground/sun warms static water in the pipe.
--

dadiOH
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dadiOH wrote:

Would this be done after I cap off the lines?

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Dave FL wrote:

I am not sure what you mean by "cap off the lines". If you mean adjust the sprinklers to zero discharge then no, that is not necessary.
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dadiOH
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Dave-
Unless your water rates are sky high, $400 worth of water is a LOT. By my calcs about 150,000 gallons
If you have a leak somewhere there has got to be a rather large soggy spot.
Are the sprinkler valves electric? Can they be turned off manually (individually)?
I would guess that since the water bill dropped when you "Stopped using the sprinklers" (I assume you cut off water to the sprinkler valve manifold) that the "leak" is a faulty sprinkler valve not a line failure.
You're leaking water at about 3 or 4 gpm.
Are some the heads in one of the zones wet constantly?
cheers Bob
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Can't find any, it could be possible that since I live in Florida, the soil below 1-2 feet is sandy, and could be soaking it up?

Hunter sprinkler system with a Rain Bird controller

I have checked all of the valves (had to replace one solenoid) and they are not filling up with water when running. I have only turned off the rain bird control, not the incoming water at the backflow preventer (Two knobs, 1 for interior & 1 for exterior)

No, even with the main still on and RB turned off
Dave FL
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Dave FL wrote:

I live in Florida too and the amount of water mentioned is a LOT even for Florida sand to soak up. With that much water leaking there must be a joint (or maybe a holed pipe - been digging?) underground that failed but - even in sand - I'd think that would blow out from the surface.
Do you know where the sprinkler supply lines run? If so, walk them.
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dadiOH
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I've never had one on any of my irrigation systems, but there is/can be what's called a _positive drain valve_ on the end of the zones. Essentially, when the valve shuts off the remaining water drains to a sand pit. The prevents freezing of the pipes.
If you have such a PDV valve and have a bad diaphragm / solenoid on the zone valve, water would leak to ground.
(Not an expert..)

-- Oren
"I wouldn't even be here if my support group hadn't beaten me up."
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Sounds like a plausible explanation, but our freeze/thaw in Florida is very minimal.

(Nor am I)
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Dave FL wrote:

You seem to be saying that you turned of the controller, and the water loss stopped. If that is so, then the system is water tight up to the control valves, so your leak must be beyond the control valves.
I think if your timing was wrong for any zone, you would have noticed that there was at least some water coming from the heads in that zone; since you didn't say that, I assume your timing is OK.
So I suspect you have at least one leak in at least one of the lines going from the control valves out into the zone. With the volume of water you appear to be losing, it should be very apparent which line(s) is leaking just by listening to them when the system is not irrigating. If necessary, you could make something like a stethoscope from a piece of tubing to help you identify the leaking line.
Once you have identified the leaking line, try pushing a dowel rod, or the equivalent, into the soil, starting at the midpoint of the line. Eventually you will find the area that is wet, and you start excavating there. Actually, with that much water flow, you should almost be able to hear the actual point of the leak with your homemade stethoscope, but I don't know how much flow there is as you have just given a dollar amount, and water prices vary around the country. Its not uncommon that a nominal amount of water is very cheap, but once you exceed that amount, the price per unit increases quite a bit.
A drain valve, assuming you even have them, should not be the problem, as they are designed to close when there is water pressure, and open when there is no pressure, to allow the lines to drain. Of course, your whole underground system is probably plastic, so there could be a break anywhere.

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Dave FL wrote:

Does your neighbor have a pool?
Is there a new bog in your neighborhood?
200,000 gallons of water over two months is a LOT of water.
200,000 gallons = 27,000 cu ft = 10'x45'x6' pool, or a little less than half an Olympic swimming pool.
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For two months of irrigation, that actually isn't such an incredible amount of water. Who knows how big an area he's watering? If it's a 1/2 acre, 22,000 sq ft, the 27000 cubic ft of water over two months, works out to 1.8 inchs of water a week. It's normally recommended to put down 1" per week. Some people over do it, plus if it's during the hottest months in Fl, then it may not be unusual at all. Now, if he only has a small lot and is doing minimal watering, etc, then I agree something is wrong.
There is a lot of info missing, besides area being watered, we don't know if this is a sudden new problem, been gradually getting worse, did watering amount change, etc.
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On Wed, 07 Nov 2007 10:25:21 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

do you have a water meter on the main incoming line? Make sure all water lines are off, and watch the meter. Then turn on zones to see if the water meter starts to move. Here we have an actual meter on the water line, but is averaged for three months, then an actual reading takes place, which can affect your water bill for one month.
samurai
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Dave, I'm no guru on sprinklers except to say I've had 2 different systems for about 15 years or so, so I have some experience with minor fixes. My instinct would be that if you have that much leakage, you should have a soft spot in your yard where the water is leaking. I think with that much water and under pressure, some water will probably go to the surface as well as below the pipes. You might also see what some diy places for installing systems have to say or google for it.
Last resort, before paying for that much water again, it will probably be A LOT cheaper to get a professional to fix the problem !!
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On Nov 5, 12:22 pm, observer wrote:

The zone with weak pressure has the leak, follow the pipe and it should be evident from soaked ground.
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