Mr Fixit Property Maintenance and Renovation Services
Specialists in Property Renovation and Maintenance
MR FIXIT About Mr Fixit Contact us MEP Design Chimneys & Flues Rabies

Finding Water Supply Leaks

water meter

Excessive water Usage and Leaks in Your Water Supply

Are you using a lot of water? Do you have a leak in your water supply? You can use a lot of water very quickly with only a small leak and, if you have a water meter, this can cost you a lot of money. Here we discuss how to tell if you have a leak, what might cause the leak and how to find it.

See the full Fixed Abode article "Deja Vu" here

First a story about a man who had very high water bills

A sweet but expensive sound is the gentle whir of a water meter. Did I say whir? That doesn't sound right. Water meters are not supposed to whir, they are supposed to click.....  slowly.

The phone rang. It was Fred.

“The little a wheel, it is a turning veery fast.” - he was talking about his water meter.

“How can I help you?”

“I have just received a water bill for Rp10,000,000” he said.
“You only pay once a year?” I queried.
“No” he said, “that is for one month.”
“Rp10,000,000 ($1,000) for one month? Obviously you have just refilled your Olympic size swimming pool” I said.
“But I don't have an Olympic size swimming pool” he said.
“Perhaps you are using the town water to fill your paddy fields?” I queried.
“No” he said emphatically.
“Fish farm? Perhaps a car wash business? A laundrette maybe?”
“No” he said “No, no, no” even more emphatically. “I have a villa.”

The emphaticism was a little convincing so I thought I'd better not tempt fate by asking him how many showers he was taking every day or discussing the high level of evaporation one can expect in Bali. I thought I had better take a look.

“Can you send someone very fast?” Fred asked with a note of desperation in his voice.

From the bill we worked out he had been using 2,000 litres of water an hour, even with a five bedroom villa and lots of guests that is a lot of water. Just as a point of information world health standards say that a person needs a minimum of around 13 litres of water per day.

While most people in Indonesia have a well or bore and pump to provide water to their house there is in fact a reticulated “town” water supply in many parts of the island provided by teh government water company. If you have a town supply you will have a water meter. Your water meter, if you have one, records cubic metres of water used and, of course, one cubic metre is 1,000 litres. You are charged per cubic metre.

First we checked that all the taps were turned off and no toilets running. Still there was the gentle hum of money flowing into the tills of the water company.

I poked around in the undergrowth. Hidden outside the boundary wall under a beautiful green tree and some rather thriving lush vegetation was a large pool of water. The septic tank was full and overflowing and an outside drain had a healthy flow going into it. It appeared that Fred had been irrigating the whole district for quite some time.

It should be noted that septic systems and drainage should be totally isolated from each other to prevent raw sewerage getting into open drainage.

Now comes the tricky bit. Where do the pipes go after they disappear into the concrete path?

“Do you have any drawings of the property with pipes marked on? Sorry, yes, I know, stupid question.”

No paperwork can be a problem.

If ever you have a building built or you buy a new house always insist that you get copies of the drawings, particularly the drawings of the electrical layout and the services (water, sewerage, drainage, etc.) In the highly likely event that you will have a problem in the future it can save a lot of time and trouble knowing where things are.

I studied the layout of Fred’s place and intuition lead to a healthy looking tree next to the septic tank.

“Dig there.” I said
“There?” said Fred
“Yes there” said I.

I watched frustrated while two local workers grovelled around in a muddy hole for an hour trying to dig with a pickaxe and a desert spoon (ever tried to dig mud with a pickaxe?). Eventually, just as Edward James Murphy would predict, a hefty swing of the pick and the pipe was revealed by a hiss and a jet of water. The worker was surprised, I wasn’t.

A little further digging and we found the cause of the problem - a two inch plastic pipe and a joint had come apart. They do you know especially when they have not been glued properly in the first place. Funny that. Five more minutes and the job was finished.

Small Leaks Can Lose A Lot Of Water

It is surprising how much water can run from a fairly small leak. Let us say your toilet is running or a tap is dripping and you are losing a cupful every ten seconds, that is three litres a minute which is 134,000 litres a month - that is a lot of water. Do you realise you could clean your teeth three times a day for 366 years with that much water (unless you’ve got very big teeth in which case it will be a mere 244 years).

Pipe Joints Not Properly Glued

Plastic pipe joints often come apart. Plumbers tend to cut and assemble pipework before they finally glue it together. They then go back and glue all the joints, if they miss disassembling and gluing one joint you have a problem and, with a local tendency to bury plastic pipes in concrete walls and under floors, this can be a serious issue.

So what steps can we take?

  1. Make sure you get layout plans of the services in your new house.
  2. Ask your friendly builder to think of maintenance when deciding where to put pipes and wiring.
  3. Check your water meter to make sure it stops turning when everything is turned off.
  4. Make sure none of you taps or toilets are running.
  5. Do not search for a water pipe with a pickaxe.

As a final comment if you are considering using the town water supply for your new home be aware that the water pressure can vary enormously through the day, I have a friend who has such high town water pressure it blows the pipes off the taps at night but in the morning when everyone is having a shower there is no pressure at all.

Copyright © Phil Wilson October 2007
This article, or any part of it, cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.