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How To Find and Resolve Leaks in a Drip Irrigation System

How To Find and Resolve Leaks in a Drip Irrigation System

Dec 7th 2023

The drip irrigation system is an innovative and efficient watering system that delivers controlled amounts of water to plants' roots using drip lines. Insects, birds, or rats can create leaks in drip lines. In addition, drip irrigation components can leak for several reasons, such as damaged emitters and pipes. An unrepaired or unnoticed leak will cost you money and lead to water wastage.

So, what do you need to do? The first and foremost step is identifying the source of leaks in the entire irrigation system. Fortunately, there are ways to find leaks, even below ground. The next crucial step is to resolve the leak yourself or get help from a professional landscaper with drip irrigation experience. Thankfully, there are simple and inexpensive ways to fix those leaks, which we will discuss in this guide.

In this article, our drip irrigation experts will show you how to find leaks by noticing the signs in your drip irrigation system and offering solutions to fix those leaks.

Signs of Drip Irrigation System Leaks

Let's first look at leak warning signs.

Standing Water

If you notice any areas of pooling water into the ground where water is not being absorbed, you are likely to have a leak in the system.

Wilting or Yellowing of Plants

A drip line leak in a zone reduces water pressure, resulting in low water coverage and yellowing plants. Dying plants show that they aren't getting enough water to their roots due to the leak or clog.

Sudden Spike in Water Bill

If you notice that your water bill has increased significantly, but your water consumption has not changed, it may be due to a leak in your irrigation system.

Soggy Areas in Gardens or Flower Beds

Soggy ground and flower beds can also be a sign of a water leak. When you walk on damp grass areas, the ground will feel squishy due to excessive moisture in the soil.

Wet Spots on Patio

Another sign that your drip irrigation system may leak is wet spots on the patio or pavement. Unless it rains heavily or your sprinklers are misaligned, these areas should not remain wet.

Furthermore, other signs include wet spots around drip tubing, changes in pressure and flow, and hissing sounds coming from downward-facing emitter holes.

How to Find Leaks in Your Drip Irrigation System?

Here is how to detect the source of leaks in your irrigation system.

Check Valves

If the area below the valves is damp, inspect the valve connections for leaks. If you don't know which zone is leaking, turn on the irrigation system and look for leaking valves. Once you have identified which valve or valves are leaking, turn off the system.

Next, check the solenoid on the downstream side of the valve that is leaking. The solenoid controls the water flow through the valve. Unscrew the solenoid and look for any damage. If you see any breakages or cracks in the solenoid, you'll need to replace it.

Check Drip Irrigation Lines

Turn off the water supply to prevent more damage while trying to detect the leak. Use a shovel or any other tool to dig the area to examine all pipes and system connections closely. Look for any leak signs, such as pooling water or dampness.

If there are no visible leaks, trace the drip lines from start to end to find any holes or damage. You can turn off the water to locate the leaks. After locating the leak, mark the area in the soil and turn off the water supply.

Check System Connections

Make sure all the system connections and fittings are properly connected. For it, inspect all connections and fittings for any signs of leak. A leak could occur if you push a hose thread onto a pipe thread. They don't coexist.

Check the Water Meter

If you suspect your drip irrigation system is leaking, the best way to confirm is by using a water meter. Turn off the complete water supply to your property and check the meter. Some water meters have a small triangle-shaped flow indicator. This triangle shouldn't move at all after you turn off the water. However, if it moves slowly, there is probably a leak.

Moreover, if the meter doesn't have a flow indicator, you should record the number that appears on the meter. After recording the first number, do not use any water. Then, return after 1-2 hours and re-record the number. If the number is different, it shows you have a leak.

How to Resolve Leaks in Your Drip Irrigation System?

Once you have found irrigation leaks, you should promptly repair those leaks to avoid any further damage. Here are the simple steps you can take to fix leaks in the drip irrigation system.

Troubleshooting Leaking Drip Line

Once you have found damage to the drip line, use a cutting tool to cut closely to each side of the damaged line. If the damage is from a broken emitter or barb remove them from the mainline and use a Goof Plug to stop the leak. For larger leaks, install a coupler firmly to fix a leak. Drip tubing comes in various diameters, so purchase the right coupling size that fits the tubing. If you use the wrong size coupling, you will still have a leak after fixing the leak. Find the right fix it tools and fittings with our drip irrigation repair kits.

If the damage to the tubing is large, you will need to replace that piece of drip line. Measure a piece of tubing that is equal to the length of the section of the drip line you are replacing. Cut the tubing to the appropriate length, attach couplings to both ends of a newly installed piece of tubing, and connect it to both ends of the drip tubing.

Troubleshooting Leaking Backflow Preventer

If your backflow preventer is dripping constantly, you should check the O-ring to troubleshoot it. O-rings need to be changed frequently because they deteriorate over time. Ensure the O-ring is fully seated, and the components are hand-tightened.

Troubleshooting Leaking Filter

It is uncommon for the filter to leak. If it does, you should make sure O-rings are present at the inlet and canister body, depending on where the leak is. Additionally, it is essential to open the filter and inspect the screen. If you see any buildup on the screen, remove it and clean it. After cleaning, put it back and close the filter unit.

Troubleshooting Leaking Connections to Tubing

If you notice that drippers aren't dripping but leaking from the tubing connection, you should push the dripper all the way. In addition, reinstall the emitter to check if this fixes the leak.

Troubleshooting Leaking Fittings

Make sure the tubing and fitting sizes are compatible. If the fitting is a hose thread, see if the washer is there and then examine it to see if it is worn out. If the hose washer is worn, it can be replaced. You should also check the structural integrity of the fittings. Damaged threads can cause connections that don't fit properly and leak. So, you need to ensure the fittings sizes are compatible with tubing.

The Bottom Line

Drip irrigation system leaks can be man-made or caused by harsh environments, insects, or wildlife. Every irrigation system requires periodic maintenance, especially older ones. Unresolved leaks in irrigation systems can result in water wastage, high electricity bills, and poor plant health. Fortunately, repairing or replacing drip irrigation components is easier and less expensive and doesn't require digging or expensive supplies. So, if you notice any of these signs of leaks, it is imperative to quickly fix them yourself.