by Craig Lauridsen
What do leaks sound like? Most of us have heard a toilet running or a broken pipe gushing, but fewer of us have heard the subtle hissing of water pushing through a stuck irrigation valve. Automatic irrigation valves (also called solenoid valves or electric valves) are usually located somewhere along the perimeter of your house, apartment or business and are often grouped together, forming something called a manifold. These manifolds are sometimes located in valve boxes that may be buried and covered in mulch or soil. Because of their inconspicuous locations, people often overlook them when searching for leaks.
The main reason an irrigation valve develops a leak is because something gets stuck in it. If sand, sediment, glue residue or even an insect gets caught in your valve, it can keep it from closing. And if the valve doesn’t close all the way, then you will be losing water 24/7 until it is repaired or replaced. Even though the valve is the source of the leak, the escaping water continues through the pipes and will usually emerge from your lowest sprinkler heads or drippers. So a soggy spot on one part of your property might be caused by a stuck valve somewhere else.
As an MMWD Water Conservation Specialist, I’ve identified several irrigation valve leaks while performing water-use efficiency surveys for customers through our Conservation Assistance Program. I recently found a 370-gallon-per-day leak (based on meter movement) that was being caused by two stuck irrigation valves. This particular home is on a slope so the water was draining to the bottom of the property—out of sight, out of mind . . . until the water bill arrived. When I put my ear near the valves I could hear the hissing as water squeezed through the stuck valves.
So the next time you’re looking or listening for leaks, remember to check your irrigation valves. To help you evaluate your entire property, both inside and out, MMWD has an easy step-by-step guide to help you check for leaks and make sure your house is water efficient. You can find the Do-It-Yourself Home Water Survey on our website, or visit us at 220 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera to pick up a copy.
Prefer to have one of our water conservation experts perform a survey for you? Call us at 945-1523 to schedule a free appointment.