Maintaining Water Systems
According to City of Irving code, maintaining underground piping on the customer’s side of the water meter - beginning at the connection between the meter and the customer’s service line - is the responsibility of the customer.
Leaks in underground plumbing can be caused by many different factors, including rust; driving over piping with heavy trucks or equipment; poor initial installation; freezing and thawing of a pipeline; leaking joints or valves; or high-pressure transients from open and closing valves or starting and stopping pumps quickly. Signs of underground leaks include:
- Unusually wet spots in landscaped areas and/or water pooling on the ground surface.
- An area that is green, moldy, soft or mossy surrounded by drier conditions.
- A notable drop in water pressure/flow volume.
- A sudden problem with rusty water or dirt or air in the water supply. Note, there are causes other than leaks, too.
- A portion of an irrigated area is suddenly brown, dead or dying when it used to be thriving, indicating water pressure may be too low to enable distant heads to pop up properly.
- Heaving or cracking of paved areas.
- Sink holes or potholes.
- Uneven floor grade or leaning of a structure.
- Unexplained sudden increase in water use, consistently high water use, or water use that has been climbing at a fairly steady rate for several billing cycles.
If any of these conditions exist at a facility or home, it may have a leak. If a leak is suspected, a professional leak detection company can help pinpoint its exact location. A licensed and bonded utility contractor should perform the repair(s) once the location is known.
Toilets are the most common sources of leaks, and leaks at this source are easy to detect.
One method is to place a toilet tablet, available for free from the Irving Customer Service Department, or a few drops of food coloring in the tank, but don't flush. After a few minutes, if coloring appears in the bowl, the toilet is indeed leaking water.
Usually all that is needed is a replacement flapper valve, which is the soft rubber flapper in the tank. Water corrodes these flappers over time, and it is recommended that they be replaced every two years. The adjustment screw at the back of the toilet also may need to be corrected to stop water from going into the overflow tube.
Troubleshooting an Irrigation System Timer
Being able to check an irrigation system timer is a valuable skill that will help to keep plants alive and save water. There may be times when the automatic irrigation clock time malfunctions and you will need to be able to find and repair the problem. Download a PDF of the full instructions.
- Find the automatic irrigation timer box and the manual.
- Ensure that the LCD lights up and shows the correct time and date. Power outages, daylight savings time and human errors or tampering can change the settings so it is a good idea to check it regularly.
- Check the back-up battery.
- Determine if the valve stations are scheduled to turn on and off correctly. Check each valve program from beginning to end to make sure there are no errors in the settings in the timer program.
- Check for a problem between the valves and the timer box. Turn on each valve using the manual setting on the timer - to do this set the timer to manual, turn on one valve at a time and go to the irrigation line for that valve to make sure that the water is flowing.
- Check wire connections. The wires may have broken loose or corroded. Some wires may have been crossed accidentally or shorted out.
- What if a valve clicks when turned on by the timer but the water doesn't flow? This means the timer is sending the message but the valve is malfunctioning (it could be the solenoid, wires, or diaphragm) or a problem with the water supply. To override the timer clock and test that the diaphragm opens and closes on a valve, go to the bank of valves and turn on the one not working using a manual switch on the valve. Most valves are equipped with a way to turn the water on or off without electricity. This method is used if there is no power or to override the timer to test a valve.
- Leaking pipes or faulty timing that causes water to stay on is usually easier to catch than no water, especially when it is only one valve that isn't working. On a regular basis check the system when it is running during its scheduled irrigation period. This will help to catch problems before they go on too long. If your system runs at night or early mornings then you can check the ground in each valve area later to see that the water did come on as scheduled.
Tips and Warnings
- Set a regular weekly time to check on the system to catch problems in the system before they show up on your bill.
- Check with the City of Irving for any water restrictions that may be in place.
- Just because a system says it is "automatic" doesn't mean it will take care of itself. Systems not properly maintained could create large water consumption incidents in a small amount of time.
Other Common Leaks
Other common causes for leaks are:
- Sprinkler Systems: Check for soggy areas of the yard, and inspect sprinkler heads and valves.
- Water Heaters: Check for standing water around the water heater.
- Ice makers: Ensure it is still connected properly and is not dripping water anywhere.
- Faucets: Dripping faucets can cause substantial water loss every month.