When I went to the mail box Friday night and opened the water bill it said we had use nearly 28,000 gallons of water in January. With that much water I could safely rule out an indoor toilet leak, but to be sure I shut off the indoor water supply and took the cover off the street-side water meter to have a look at the gauge. Sure enough, the little indicator arrow was spinning around at the rate of 7 gallons per minute. Our water line runs from the meter to the house under our concrete driveway. Our plumber came by and verified that the leak was somewhere between the meter and the house. Now we had to find out where.
This is a multi-utility procedure because you can’t just start tearing up the concrete and dig until you find the leak. There are other utility lines including gas, and in our case underground power, cable and phone. Each had to be located and marked by the respective utility providers who came out with their sounding meters and spray painted different colored dashes on the driveway to mark locations of the buried lines.
Then the water leak technician located the leak by pumping nitrogen gas through the water line. He had a sensitive microphone that allowed him to hear the underground hiss of escaping gas. He marked a 4 foot by 4 foot area where he heard the leak.
Fortunately, our plumber was able to begin work immediately, dig up the driveway, find the leak, repair it and have us with a leak free supply of water in just two days. Now all we have to worry about is getting the driveway repaired.
Nationally, it is estimated that 14% of residential water is lost through leaks. We can see the faucets drip and can often hear the toilets leaking water. More serious indoor leaks like broken hoses to dishwashers, refrigerators and clothes washers are readily evident when leaking water stains walls and ceilings. Outdoor leaks are another matter. Our leak, which was through a hole in the pipe about the size of a fork tine, was hidden.
Often, if the water line runs under the lawn, greener grass is an indicator of a leak. The most obvious indicator, of course, is the outrageous water bill.
The good news is that the City will discount the sewage treatment part of the bill since most of the 28,000 gallons of wasted water didn’t make it to the treatment plant.