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arrowhead
07-02-2007, 11:28 AM
Hello to all:

I am new to this. Desperate for help. Just got water bill for $144.00, three times the norm for this time of year.

Two things happened before jump in water bill:

1) New timer box installed for 6 station drip system which many years ago had sprinkler heads and was changed to drip system since grass removed. Desert landscaping.

2) New meter was installed by utility company.

Got the elevated water bill. Called plumber to try to determine if there was a leak between the meter and the water line to the house. All good on that account. Plumber then found irrigation valve and saw that if that valve is open, meter spins around like crazy. Temporarily put a manual shut-off valve on so we could manually put on our watering system and only have the meter running excessively while this is on.

We then got some people to dig and found pipes going from main irrigation valve to valve boxes and there is no leak. Walked the yard, no leak. Sandy soil would have revealed sinking, leak etc.

We have spent over $500.00 so far, and still have the problem. We want to know simplest and cheapest way to solve it. Can't be opening and closing the valve every 2 days, especially since we travel often. Can we put a timer on the irrigation valve and hook that up to our timer box so it will come on only when we want to water ?

We have checked all valves and valve boxes, no leaking. Public utilities came out and said it's our problem. We asked them to replace meter (because timing of change-out and triple increase in water use was more than coincidential. No luck. Sorry this is so long. Any suggestions?

Kiril
07-02-2007, 12:27 PM
Check each valve running at the curb stop (meter). Identify if it is just an isolated valve or all the valves that are causing the meter to run fast. All the valves would suggest a problem upstream of the valve manifold, isolated valve would suggest a problem downstream.

If you determine it is only one or two valves you can either find the leak (and there is one even if you can't see it) or lay new pipe from the valve to where it needs to go. If you can't find it (the leak) hire a water dowser, or try your own hand at dowsing http://www.dowsingworks.com/id17.html
If you can approximate what the GPM of a zone should be putting out, then find something inside your house that has near the same flow rate, you can compare the meter for both situations. Ideally they should be pretty close.

Also try turning off all appliances and fixtures that use water and check to see if the meter is moving.

If all else fails, and your sure it is the meter, install your own meter between the city meter and your house so you can prove them wrong. You can find them for under 100 bucks for 3/4 and under 200 for 1".

arrowhead
07-02-2007, 05:07 PM
Thanks for your suggestions, Kiril. Regarding your suggestion to check all the valves at the curb where the meter is, I don't follow you. The configuration I can see is just a single meter with one pipe leading to the street and the other to the house. There are no valves close by, unless they are several feet away and buried.

Back to my question about the possibility of putting a timer on the main irrigation line valve; is it feasible in any way?

I will definitely look into the dowsing and thank you for that idea as well.

Thanks again.

hj
07-02-2007, 05:48 PM
It is feasible, but you would be treating the symptom not the problem, and if there is a leaking zone it will leak the entire time the other zones are watering plus its own time, which should overwater that area. Operate the zones manually and the one that does not seem to turn on and off will be the one that is leaking.

Mr_Pike
07-03-2007, 01:20 PM
My water meter spins like crazy when my sprinkler is on as well!

Couple questions.

Who installed the new sprinkler clock?

Just a thought, you may want to check and see if you might have something hooked up wrong, like one of the zones connected to the main valve port or 24 AC accessory port. This would cause that zone to run the entire time the system is on, or 24/7.

The other thing to check, if your main line to the valve box is not leaking, is for open zone valves. Some models of valves fail in the open position, and I suspect that you would probably not notice this as well with drip in sandy soil.

Remove all the wires from the clock and see if the water is still entering the system (via the tell tale wheel on the meter).

If you are still getting water through the valves and can't tell which one is open, dig up the box and start capping all the zones heading out. Re charge the system and check for running water. (make sure you aren't doing laundry or something at the time)

The key to diagnosing any of these problems is to isolate components and test them.

Mr_Pike
07-03-2007, 01:23 PM
By the way, you should always have a manual shutoff valve for the sprinkler system, so consider that valve permanant not temporary.

And most times a utility doesn't replace equipment out of the kindness of their hearts. Ask your neighbors what their bill is, and what is has been. You might have been 1/3 of the cost of all your neighbors around you before, and thats why they came out and changed your meter.

arrowhead
07-04-2007, 06:28 AM
Mr. Pike:
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am going to try one by one your suggested actions. Will be sure to share positive outcome!

Kiril
07-04-2007, 08:43 AM
Regarding your suggestion to check all the valves at the curb where the meter is, I don't follow you.

Sorry for the confusion. What I meant by that statement is to check how fast the meter is ticking when each irrigation valve is on. Go turn on one valve, walk out to the water meter and note or time how fast the meter is ticking. Do this for each valve and for some fixtures that you have a known flow rate so you can compare the results you obtained from your valve tests.


Back to my question about the possibility of putting a timer on the main irrigation line valve; is it feasible in any way?

The better controllers have a master valve wiring option. Check to see if yours does and the controller is wired and scheduled to accommodate. If it doesn't have that option, and you have a master valve, then perhaps a new controller is in order.

It might help if you provided some information on the type of valves and controller (make and model) your using.

arrowhead
07-04-2007, 09:41 AM
Thanks again for more ideas. First of all, the controller is an ESP Modular Rain Bird Controller.

I do not know how the installer connected it or if he did to an main valve or just the individual valves (think just the 6 stations). To clarify: At the curb is the meter and the main shutoff valve to the house Right outside the front of the house there are two master valves : The waterline into the house, The irrigation line.

When troublshooting for the reason the meter is spinning even when the controller is OFF, we closed the main water line and of course it stopped spinning. Then we opened the main water line and closed the irrigation water line (a valve 3 feet under ground). When this valve is closed, the meter moves more than it should.

I tried your suggestion to compare how fast the meter spins station-by-station, and did find that 5 out of 6 stations took about 1 minute to go around , but with one of the stations, it went around in about 40 seconds. Now, that station has a longer extension of line and I don't know if that is the reason for the increased water or if there is where we should start digging around the valves.

At least I feel I am getting somewhere. Guess if I could have a qualified, knowledgeable irrigation person to look at the way the system is set up, that person could also test the pressure.

Thanks again for your concern.

Kiril
07-04-2007, 11:09 AM
the controller is an ESP Modular Rain Bird Controller

Great controller. Some would argue the best on the market right now for residential/light commercial applications.


there are two master valves : The waterline into the house, The irrigation line.

Please clarify this statement.


Now, that station has a longer extension of line and I don't know if that is the reason for the increased water or if there is where we should start digging around the valves.

If that zone uses more water than the other zones I would expect it to spin faster. Considering they are all drip zones, what you would be looking for is the meter spinning considerably faster than the others.

If you could approximate the flow in one of your zones by adding up the dripper output at the systems operating pressure, then find a fixture in your house that you can adjust to approximate the same flow, you then can determine how fast the meter should be spinning when that zone is active.


Then we opened the main water line and closed the irrigation water line (a valve 3 feet under ground). When this valve is closed, the meter moves more than it should.

If you are certain that no water is being used in your house at the time you checked the meter, then this would suggest there is a leak between the mainline and the irrigation shutoff.