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Where is the water going?
Old 11-19-2014, 03:06 PM   #1
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Where is the water going?

For the second month in a row we received a water bill that is double the usual and the gallons used is doubled as well. The first time I did find a minor leak in a toilet flapper valve, fixed that, all is well.

This month I rechecked all the toilets (food coloring in the tank, wait a full day, no change in bowl water color) and they're fine.

The extra water being wasted is on the order of 8,000 gallons a month, or a tad over 11 gallons an hour! Standing at the water inlet pipe in the basement I can hear it flowing.

I turned off the water valves to the washing machine. No change. The water flowing through the whole-house humidifier trickles into a utility sink, no change there and when the furnace is off that turns off as well.

I am stumped. The water is apparently coming into the house since I can hear it but the basement is not full of water. Where could this water possibly be going that I can't pin down?

Is it possible that I'd hear a leak outside the house on the inside? The water meter is close to the street so there is a run of pipe that is mine to fix if that is the leak location.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:14 PM   #2
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Is it possible that I'd hear a leak outside the house on the inside? The water meter is close to the street so there is a run of pipe that is mine to fix if that is the leak location.
It sure is possible. We had a sprinkler valve give up the ghost that was most of the way toward the house, between the supply pipe/meter and the entrance to the house plumbing. You could hear it gushing from inside the house. That sucker was about 6 feet down and it was an expensive fix.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:16 PM   #3
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That sucker was about 6 feet down and it was an expensive fix.
That is my concern. I don't happen to have an excavator in my shed of toys.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:20 PM   #4
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Sure sounds like it is between the meter and the house. Remember, this is what you saved and invested for, so you could hire someone to fix this stuff in your retirement...
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:20 PM   #5
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If you have an outside waterspigot, the kind with a long stem going through the wall, the likely culprit. The shells tend to crack and the water is leaking out, going into the blocks of the basement wall then into the ground.

I have fixed a few, Meaning replaced the 12 to 14 inch stemmed valve assembly. Most are a PITA to disconect inside the house.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:23 PM   #6
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Sure sounds like it is between the meter and the house. Remember, this is what you saved and invested for, so you could hire someone to fix this stuff in your retirement...
Some consolation....

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If you have an outside waterspigot, the kind with a long stem going through the wall, the likely culprit. The shells tend to crack and the water is leaking out, going into the blocks of the basement wall then into the ground.

I have fixed a few, Meaning replaced the 12 to 14 inch stemmed valve assembly. Most are a PITA to disconect inside the house.
I'll hope for that, except the foundation is not block, but poured concrete. Probably REWahoo is right. Sigh.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:24 PM   #7
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The water is leaking after the meter, or else you would not be be charged. Look at the meter spin, and then shut off any shutoff you can find to see if it stops the leak. 8,000 gallons is a lot of water, it should be going somewhere. You may be able to hear it.

Shut off the valve closest to the meter to make sure you can see the meter stopped. Most often, it is a toilet, dye in the water would not make any difference if it was overflowing into the overflow pipe. A good toilet flapper would not prevent this.

A plumber with a special tool can find the leak. The city can pinpoint a leak under 6'+ of dirt within a few feet of main line.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:31 PM   #8
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Just having fun with you.... even though it is something serious that I cannot add to...


Are you sure your neighbor is not filling up their pool



But seriously.... have you check all your valves Do you have a water softener or filter system? There could be a leak in one of those and if they are connected to the waste system you would not know they were leaking...
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:39 PM   #9
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Is it possible that I'd hear a leak outside the house on the inside? The water meter is close to the street so there is a run of pipe that is mine to fix if that is the leak location.
Yes, as this happened with my previous house. I could hear water running, particularly when standing near the water heater or one of the faucets. Turns out it was between the meter and the house, and only a few feet from the house.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:43 PM   #10
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Agree you need to get someone with the tools to locate where the leak is, as you certainly have it going somewhere. Could be going into ground from supply pipe between meter and house, but generally you will see mushy or water on top surface.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:44 PM   #11
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Turns out it was between the meter and the house, and only a few feet from the house.
This is almost certainly what it is. I just got off the phone with the plumber, he gave me a list of things to check, including put the water softener in bypass to eliminate that. When I turn off the main water valve I can still hear the water running. After 5:00 (when the water co. closes and no one is watching detectors) I'll take the cover off the water meter and look for for the meter running. I'm pretty sure of what I'll find.

Oh well, that Nikon D810 just wasn't in the cards....
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:52 PM   #12
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Take a metal rod and go between the meter and the house. That much water should make the ground soggy and soft. You should be able to feel the difference. Of course, with the weather its probably under a blanket of snow now so you may have to wait until things dry out a bit.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:54 PM   #13
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Another option is to use a longer metal rod and lean your head against it. You said you could hear it in the house--the rod will help you to hear it in the ground.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:58 PM   #14
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Another option is to use a longer metal rod and lean your head against it. You said you could hear it in the house--the rod will help you to hear it in the ground.
Same principle as the stethoscope!

So when is the plumber coming?
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Old 11-19-2014, 04:00 PM   #15
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If it's between the meter and the house and yours to repair but you have no way to turn off the supply, one technique is 1) find the leak, 2) clamp over it to stop the flow temporarily, 3) between the meter and leak freeze the pipe with dry ice, and 4) repair the leak before you run out of dry ice.
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Old 11-19-2014, 04:04 PM   #16
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Is it possible that I'd hear a leak outside the house on the inside? The water meter is close to the street so there is a run of pipe that is mine to fix if that is the leak location.
Oh yes, you could hear it, and it could sound much closer than one would think. A friend had "that sound" very noticeable in his basement, city utility workers were outside digging up the street shortly afterwards. Settling soil under the compacted roadway fill gave way, not at all uncommon around here. I'd give a 1+ for the idea of asking the utility provider if they might assist in locating a possible underground leak.

If it is determined that there is an underground line break causing the high consumption rate, the only thing more important than knowing where to dig is where not to dig. Having other underground utilities locations verified before digging is imperative, that process is generally regulated by the states and in most cases may be free of charge. As the water utility has some risk involved with underground leaks, it might not hurt to ask them for assistance or advice; it would be in their best interest to have repairs made before things get worse.

Not good news, but still better than a country dweller needing to have have a new well drilled.
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Old 11-19-2014, 04:10 PM   #17
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Our water line (galvanized) between the street & house split last week after 40yrs of life.

The pressure was low, and even after I turned off the service valve at the house I could still hear it resonating in the line. I then could see a moist spot in the front yard. I had the city shut it off that night and a plumber came out next day.

They replaced the 30ft run with a Pex line & installed new hose bibs, regulator & so forth. Took 3 days but they installed a temporary line the first day so we had ~some~ relief. Oh well

Just a tip; start filling jerry cans & gallon jugs to flush your toilets while they work on it. You might be without water for half a day before they run a temporary line to your house, who knows how long before the excavation is complete.
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Old 11-19-2014, 04:12 PM   #18
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I just had a conversation with the next-door neighbor who had the issue last year. His broke right at the entrance to the house, which on our house is now under a layer of frozen-solid mulch. The water co. will come and check for free so I'll do that first. They will do that within a couple of hours.

The neighbor's bill last year was $1,200 so not as bad as I thought it would be. Plus the water co. will take off the sewer charge for the estimated wasted water, which will be about half the water/sewer charge, and his insurance covered it after his deductible. Our deductible is $1,500 so I won't bother to call the insurance co.

Still, if I get out from under this for less than $1,500 not too bad.
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Old 11-19-2014, 04:32 PM   #19
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Walt - if it's only going to be $1500, you should still get the D810. Also sounds to me like the break is between the house and meter. BIL just had the same problem. He found his break by finding a mushy area in the yard.

If you have a sump pump that is running all the time, then that would indicate that the break would be close to the house. But in any case, the water company will find it in minutes with their gizmos. Should be an easy fix once they find the leak, but your yard may be a little messy until spring.
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Old 11-19-2014, 04:39 PM   #20
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Actually the talk with my neighbor did more to make me more relaxed about this than anything else. A loss of $1,500 is, in the great scheme of things financial, nothing more than an annoyance.

Funny how mentally one magnifies the effect of a loss in one's head. Intellectually I know about that, I've read about it many times, and I still can't escape it even when at the logical level I know I'm doing it.
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