Sprinkler system underground leak help

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I suppose in FL with our really sandy soil it may be possible to have a big leak that never shows up on the surface. But before I did a lot of digging and troubleshooting, I'd first do some calculations and make sure that there was something wrong.
1. Did your waterbills suddenly go up to $400-$500? What were they before you began to suspect a leak? Has your county put a surcharge on the water bills because of the current drought?
2. How much water did you use with irrigation? without irrigation?
3. You should be able to check your water meter while running a single zone and determine how much water is being put out when that zone is operating. Knowing the number of heads on each zone and their approximate output you should be able to calculate an approximate level of water use. If there is a single source for excessive water use that should become apparent. You should be able to run each zone, determine how much water it puts out during its cycle, compare with your calculations, and if there's little discrepancy, multiply by the number of cycles in a month, and determine your programmed irrigation amounts. If it's totally out of whack with your actual usage you need to look further.
4. Once you know how much water is being used during irrigation, you should be able to determine whether that's an abnormal amount, and then identify which of the zones is/are causing the problem. If you haven't done so, recheck the zone settings on the Rainbird to make sure each zone is only running ~20 minutes, and only on 1-2 x week. If something caused the controller program to go bad, you could be running the system a lot more than originally planned.
5. Once you've (a) identified that there actually is a new problem and (b) identified which zone is at fault, (or perhaps that there is a problem in the manifold or location that might affect several zones) you can trouble-shoot that area .
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JimR wrote:

usually aren't in Florida, the water would follow the path of least resistance .. to the surface.

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And if it did go somewhere else, like maybe along the pipe, I would think that much water would have made for sink holes by now.
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No need to remove the sprinkler heads and cap off the risers. Just close the adjusting screw on the top of the sprinkler popup.
Jerry
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Jerry wrote:

Sounds MUCH easier
Dave FL
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It should be noted that this would work only if you have popup heads, such as the RainBird 1800 series or similar. It will not work if you have impact or gear-drive heads.
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Thanks, I have both. If I tighten the gear drive type the screw would just go all the way through.
Dave FL
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Dave FL wrote:

since many were not protected we got a lot of cracked pipes until we got everything in shape. We always has water washing out to the surface when there was a leak. A broken head will also flood one spot and should be obvious. Are you present when the sprinkler runs to check out sprinkler operation and timing? That would be my first chore, along with making sure the system isn't running more often than it sould. Those are whopping water bills and shutting off the system doesn prove much. If your bill is high when you water and low when you don't, it certaining doesn't seem like a sign of a leak to me ... seems much more logical the timing is wrong. You could have major leaks but not have any difference in the amount of water used.
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I had a timer once that I would set to run a cycle once a week. Occasionally, though, it would get it into its head to run the cycle every day. Something like this could cause huge bills also.
Bob
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