underground leak question

dave_mnAugust 11, 2011

My church has seen the quarterly water bill almost triple the last 2 bills. Coincidently, the water coming into the toilets is dirty (rusty looking). Is it possibly for dirt to get into a pressurized line thru a leak underground?

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It is pretty difficult for dirt to climb up a pressurized line. It is more likely that the dirty water caused a toilet flapper or two to leak, resulting in the high water bill. A slow leak in a toilet ads up to very high water usage over the course of a billing cycle. Or the two problems are entirely unrelated. Regardless, check each toilet carefully for leaks.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 9:13AM
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rusty galvanized pipes usually cause the water to be brown. When was the church built?
Go outside the church and locate where the water line enters the building. Look for greener areas of the grass, feel the dirt, is it wet?
The color of the water does not mean your toilet is leaking. Not saying it isn't. If your toillet is leaking you look two places.
The Bowl, is water running all the time?
The Tank, is water running into the overflow (flushvalve)?
If it is the bowl, replace flapper
If it is the tank, adjust or replace the ballcock. The thing with the big black ball attached to the skinny brass arm. There is a set screw that will adjust the ball height.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 12:14AM
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Before we go into a long discussion on how to locate a water leak, there are some other items that should be considered.

1.Where is this church located?
If its in the sunbelt the water meter may be in a vault near the treebelt beside the road however if it is in a colder climate where you are subject to freezing temps, in most cases the water meter is inside the structure.

If the water meter is inside the structure any water leaking from the underground supply line would be leaking before the meter and it would not be on the water bill.

Go to the water meter and examine the meter face. You will see a row of numbers that records how many cubic feet of water you are using. Generally on the right hand end of the numbers you will see a small hole about 1/4" in diameter and their is a white disc in that hole with a line painted across the face of it. That disc rotates whenever water is flowing through the meter. You can then begin by checking all restrooms, kitchen areas, a baptismal if you have one, and all outside hose bibbs and make sure they are all off, then check the meter to see if the disc is moving. (If you have steam or hydronic heat you should also make sure the boiler is turned off and you can temporarily close the water supply to the boiler, BUT, make absolutely sure you open that vavle again as soon as you have completed your observation.)

There may be some other valid reasons for an increase in water demand that you have not considered.

1.Typically a church has a very low water demand simply because the structure is basically only occupied for 4 or 5 hours on your chosen day of worship and perhaps an evening prayer service or two during the week. Otherwise the building is generally only occupied by your Pastor, Asst.Pastor and you Office Staff and they are basically only using the restroom occassionally, its not like a family taking showers and doing laundry.

However, whenever I run into an instance where a church is complaining that they have had a significant increase in utilities, both water and electric, it begs the question, has there been any unusual activity during the period in question. By examply, have you held a Vacation Bible School or other youth activity that has occupied the building throughout the week?

Has your custodian been watering the shrubs and landscaping or using a hose to wash down the sidewalks around the church?

Have you hosted a car wash fund raiser for your youth groups?

Has anyone been washing the pastors car?

Have you hosted wedding receptions in your fellowship hall?

Have you had extra cleaning personel, carpet & upholstery cleaners or any contractors working on the building during the period in question.

And last, but surely not least, have you actually compared the meter reading on your bill to the actual reading on the meter? Most water meters are now equiped with a remote sensing device where the meter reader can read the meter electronically from outside the bldg, and some have a direct telephone link to the water suppliers computer, but far too often instead of taking an actual reading the water companies use a theoretical reading for two or three months than take a real reading and adjust the bill accordingly.

This should give you some information on how to determine if it is actually an increase in usage or a leak. If after examining all the above points and you still feel its a leak, we can discuss methods of locating the leak.

On a side note, I think the presence of the discolored water will show that your demand usage has increased for some reason. An increase in demand would cause an increase in the velocity of flow in the pipes which could loosen some of the mineral scale in the pipes causing the discoloration.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 1:16AM
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