The Water Leak That Wasn’t

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, Guerneville, CA.

I never know for sure what I might be doing each day?

Almost no water this morning when I got up at 9:30.  Just barely enough for a shoddy shower and barely was able to shave before it ran down to a trickle.

There’s five houses on our spring fed water system and it seems like everyone waits for me to fix things when it goes down. First check is go up the hill and look at the water tanks to see if they are full or empty and if water is coming in from the springs. The tanks were empty, but there was a lot of spring water coming into them, as I could hear it. With the rains we’ve been having, the springs are flowing at their max, which is over fifteen gallons a minute. Wish it flowed that way in the summer.

Nice to have these stainless steel water tanks.

We are lucky to have three stainless steel water tanks, only because my brother Tom used to make these things for the wineries around here. They are too expensive for most people to use for their water systems.

Below, you an see the three water tanks that are fed from our spring from up the hill in back of them. In the picture below, you can see that they are almost full from the weighted string line to the left of the white overfill pipe going down the side of the pictured tank. Not so today.



So, what to do, there had to be water leaking out somewhere. First I look at the last water leak I had to repair about a month ago to see if it busted loose, but no, it looks good,  just a small drip. I walked around everyone’s house and look for leaks or wet spots. Nothing, but I get a lot of exercise. :O) I see my hard ass uncle over in his yard by his well and he says he’s have well pump problems. He has a back up well for when there is a spring problem.

So, with water valves, I cut all the house off the main line except his and the tank water starts to build back up ever so slowly. That says there is a leak somewhere going into my uncles place or at his place, but he says no way.

A tip to find a water leak, when you can’t find it.

I learned this tip up in Oregon a long time ago. I isolated my uncles place and filled his line full of air with my air compressor. Of course, I had to make something to hook the air compressor to a water faucet first. I have a lot of old parts laying around my place and after much looking and fitting, I found enough stuff to make that connection, although I had to steal an air fitting off my air impact gun. Hooked the air up and turned it on and put 120 pounds of air in the line. I had a pressure gauge on his line too, so I could watch for the pressure to drop, if there was a water leak, or an air leak now.

Well, the first time I put air to it, it went all the way up and the pressure held, indicating, no leak.Hummmmmmm. I had my uncle open his line and let the water out so there was more air in the line. I tried to refill the line with air, but for some reason, air wouldn’t’ come out of the air compressor, even though the gage said over a hundred pounds where in the air tank. Worked on unplugging the air compressor, that didn’t work, so looked at the water faucet I was using to put the air in the line and for some reason it was blocked, not sure why. I finally just moved the air compressor to another faucet and put the air back in the main line. I watched that pressure gage for over an hour and no pressure drop. NO LEAK.. Hummmmm. Now what?

That main line crossed under the county road that goes to the state park, so that was a relief, that’s not an easy one to fix.

Why air works so much better than water.

Now, here’s why you use air to test instead of water when you can’t find it. Water tends to go down into the earth, but air, rises up and makes a lot of noise when it escapes, so you have a much better chance of finding the leak. The main thing is don’t put your noisy compressor near where you want to test as it is noisy and you might not hear the air leaking out of the pipe. Ask me how I know that? :O)

The main line tested out ok and without doing that test my uncle wouldn’t believe water was escaping in his place and there was no water leak in the main.

The conclusion was that his pump’s foot valve must be stuck open that let the spring tanks drain down his well, until all the water was gone. The foot valve is a one way valve at the bottom of his well that is supposed to only let water go up the well and not let it run back down the pipe and into the ground when the pump  is off.

Lot’s of exercise today, for sure.

I ran around most of the day, looking around, bending over, opening valve boxes and turning valves, boy did that poop me out and I wanted to work on the van. It was about three PM when I was satisfied that there were no leaks in the main, but I just came in and sat in my chair and didn’t get any work done on the van project. So it goes. :O)

I got a lot of exercise today, so it wasn’t all wasted. I had to talk to my hard assed uncle which I usually try to avoid, but sometimes you just have to give in. And while I was solving my problem I think I may have solved his foot valve problem too, lucky him to have someone point that out for him.

Had a great day, just the same.

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