by Charlene Burgi
Water robbers are sure to pilfer your money and sap our natural resources. The thief may be obvious or it could lurk about in unseen places silently skimming off all your efforts to conserve water. Some of the obvious robbers can be found in leaking faucets, missing drip emitters, broken water pipes or misdirected irrigation nozzles that water the sidewalk or driveway instead of the roots of the plants. You may also be robbed by forgetting to turn off the irrigation controller when Mother Nature provides adequate rain to feed plants.
These obvious robbers can be eradicated. For example, most leaks can typically be fixed with a wrench, the right washer, and the little time it takes to replace the worn washer.
A missing drip emitter can be located by listening to the water run through the irrigation drip tubing. It will sound like a loud hiss and sometimes will present itself by spurting water into the air or the ground. When this type of leak is discovered, you can apprehend the culprit by installing a new emitter or using a goof plug to fill the hole made by a no-longer-needed emitter. A watchful eye can detect misdirected nozzles. If you see water spraying onto the sidewalk or street, you can easily adjust the nozzle and send the water back to the root zone of the plants.
Sometimes water robbers are not as evident. Unbeknownst to you, these stealth robbers silently siphon water off by way of a worn toilet flapper or an underground split from a damaged irrigation pipe. Sometimes a swing joint located underground can crack due to an irrigation head or riser getting hit. This underground leak can tap your wallet when it comes time to pay your water bill.
These silent water robbers can be exposed by using the right tool. The best sleuthing tool for toilet leaks is food coloring. A bit of food color dropped into the top of the toilet tank can unmask a faulty flapper as colored water seeps into the bowl below. Replace the flapper with the same make and model that you remove. Better yet, if you aren’t sure about the make and model, take the old flapper to the hardware store with you.
Underground culprits are more difficult to locate, yet we possess a very useful tool that exposes these hard-to-find water robbers. This tool is typically found at the curb of our property. I am talking about your water meter. The best way to use this tool is to turn off all water-using appliances including automatic pool fills and icemakers, then watch for movement on the meter. If the low-flow indicator (usually a triangle shape) is moving, there is a leak. If your meter does not have a low-flow indicator, use a black marking pen and put a dot at the tip of the sweep hand needle and check back after about 30 minutes. If you find movement and suspect an irrigation leak, look for wet spots in the landscape, mushrooms, or vegetation that is growing faster than other like plants. You might need to root around to see if water puddles up. This is not a task you want to do when it is raining! Or call a leak detection service to see if they can pinpoint the problem.
By capturing these marauders, you can rest easy knowing the savings can be used for better things in life.