by Charlene Burgi
It has been one of those weeks. A sprinkler head at my mom’s house was discovered lying in the pathway, the toilet in her rental was found to be far from efficient and needed to be replaced, and workers uncovered dry rot in the wall in the same unit due to a leak behind the shower. And after all that, there seemed to be only a trickle of water available in the back of the rental house.
It is those multiple troubleshooting jobs that can seem like an annoying drip of a faucet during the middle of the night! The unexpected, unannounced challenges rob you of not only time and money, but oft-times sanity as well!
I find that when the unexpected arises, sleuthing is a good game to play. For the mystery of the trickling water, I started at the meter. Our water meters can share volumes of information. They are the source where the water comes into the property. The meters have dials that indicate how much water you are using, and those same dials can also spin out of control if you have a main line break. If you wanted to track your daily usage (for the 20 Gallon Challenge), you could read your meter to see how you were doing! But I digress.
I checked the meter to see if the irrigation system was recording an adequate usage for the garden. This is an excellent detail everyone should know. If your irrigation system is running perfectly—that is to say, there are no leaks or breaks—you can calculate how many gallons a minute are used per station. First, make sure all water-using appliances in the house are off. Then read the meter before turning on the first irrigation station. Let the irrigation system run for five minutes and read the meter again. Do this for each irrigation station, recording the meter reading before and after each time. Subtract the before reading from the after to find the difference for each station. In Marin, your answers will be in CCFs (100 cubic feet), so multiply by 748 to get the number of gallons. (There are 748 gallons in 1 CCF). Finally, since you ran each station for five minutes, divide that number of gallons by five to get the gallons used per minute. For example, if for a station you found a “before” reading of 561.83 and an “after” of 563.04, the gallons per minute would be:
563.04 CCF – 561.83 CCF = 1.21 CCF x 748 gallons = 905 gallons / 5 minutes = 181 gallons/minute
You can use the gallons-per-minute calculations to determine exactly how many gallons of water you are using; just multiply the gallons per minute for a particular station times the number of minutes you run that station! But, again I digress.
Once satisfied with the correct flow to the garden, I moved to the next water source in line: the house. I still found a good flow until I went to the back of the house. There was that trickle. Following the exposed water pipe on the outside of the building I found two water valves, one on top of another. As I turned the bottom valve, I could hear a gush of water filling the pipe. Apparently the contractors had turned off that valve to work on the bathroom. Detective Gumshoe earned the sleuthing award for the day and saved plumber’s fees finding the obvious.
Unexpected challenges can often find us pulling out our hair, but there are rewards, too. Ah, if only the dry rot issue were as simple as turning on a valve!