Well lets talk about sprinkler irrigation leaks
The phrase ‘sprinkler leak’ or ‘irrigation leak’ is a very broad term. This can describe so many different things that can ‘leak’ in a sprinkler system. First we need to understand how water runs through the piping underground to understand what can leak.
All sprinkler systems have a source, most are from the water meter set by the city, but some draw from a lake or pond through a pump. We’re are going to be discussing all sprinklers systems connected to a city water meter at all times.
The water meter provides the ‘lot’ with all its potable water need. When a sprinkler system is installed a ‘tie-in’ will need to be made to provide the sprinkler system with water. This is generally done as close to the water meter as possible to prevent any pressure loss. As required by the state and city, a ‘back=flow prevention device’ will have to be installed directly after the ‘tie-in’. This keeps the potable water safe from any water ‘back-flowing’ into the shared water source . The required ‘back-flow prevention device’ is decided by what city or county the ‘lot’ is in. PVC or in some rare occasions copper piping will direct water into and throughout the area needed to be irrigated. This will bring pressurized water to the ‘irrigation control valves’ which will turn on and off the zones in the sprinkler system. Once a ‘sprinkler valve’ is activated by the controller, water will run through more piping to the heads and out through the nozzles. This is a very basic description on how most sprinklers work. Please click on the photo for more information.
Now I know that was a lot to take in. With that information you now can see all the different points in which a sprinkler system can leak. We will go over the most common ‘leaks’ and the terms commonly used to describe them. I will also list them in the direction of water flow, from the meter to the sprinkler head.
‘Water meter leak’ or ‘meter leak’. This is commonly mistaken as a sprinkler system leak, but as you learned from above the sprinkler system doesn’t actually start till the ‘tie-in’. If your water meter box is full of water or water is spilling out, it is best to call the water municipality of the city or county you live in and have them check it out. this is usually free to you and they can tell you if it’s something they are responsible for, or you.
‘Tie-in leak’. This happens when the original cut and tie-in to the potable water source fails. Several reasons this can happen. The ‘tie-in’ uses a weak part and it eventually cracked or leaked. Our ground here in Texas is very active, and shifting pulled the tie-in’ apart. The symptom most likely will be a wet mushy spot close to the water meter or back-flow prevention device or a large amount of water pouring from this same area.
‘Leaking back-flow prevention device’. There are many types of ‘back-flow prevention devices’, the most common is the ‘D.C.V.A.’ or ‘double-check’. The brass in these can crack from time to time, but most likely it’s the PVC male adapters that are screwed into them that crack.
‘Main-line leak’ The ‘main-line’ is the part of the PVC from the ‘back-flow prevention device’ to the irrigation valve or solenoid valve. Its designated as the ‘main-line’ due to it is under constant pressure even when the system is off. A ‘main-line leak’ will then leak no matter if the system is in use. Usually it will be a very slow leak, resulting in a wet mushy spot, or a clean break, where gallons of water will be flowing from the break. In both instances the water will have to be shut off to stop the leak.
‘Cracked or broken sprinkler valve’ Occasionally a sprinkler valve or solenoid valve will crack. Most of the time it is a very small hair-line crack that produces a wet mushy area around the valve box. I talk more about problems that can arise just from irrigation valves here sprinkler valve repair
‘Lateral leak’ The ‘lateral-line’ refers to the PVC piping after the irrigation valve to the sprinkler heads. A ‘lateral leak’ will only leak water when that zone is in use since it is only under pressure while that sprinkler valve is open. Symptoms of a ‘lateral leak’ are, gallons of water flowing from a break, or very low pressure coming out of the sprinkler heads.
‘Broken sprinkler head’ Sometimes this is called a ‘busted head’. The majority of the time it is the sprinkler head itself broken. Sometimes it the connecting part under the head that attaches the sprinkler head to the piping.
We have just covered a short description of how a sprinkler system works, and the most common sprinkler leaks to occur. Keep in mind their are several other types of irrigation systems from residential to commercial as well as industrial and agricultural, plus their are countless problems than can come about and ways for a system to leak. I hope this page helped you learn about what your sprinkler system may be experiencing. If you have any further question please fill out the box above or give us a call.