Friday, June 24, 2022

Sidetracked

Another unexpected chore sidetracked my plans in the garden mid-week.  A glance at our latest water bill on Tuesday evening showed that we'd used 150% of the amount used during the same period last year.  As we hadn't done anything in the last month to explain that, it indicated a breakdown somewhere in our irrigation system.  After working diligently to conserve water, I was anxious to start our evaluation first thing Wednesday morning but Mother Nature threw us a curveball in the form of a thunderstorm.

Thunder rumbled for a few hours and there were periodic flashes of lightning.  I have a bad habit of ignoring both but better sense prevailed this time. 

A friend reminded me that it was best to avoid outside areas when lightning strikes were ongoing

A woman walking her dogs in Pico Rivera to the east of us was killed, along with her 2 dogs, by a lightning strike associated with that same thunderstorm Wednesday morning

 

When the thunder and lightning stopped in late morning, we checked the water meter and discovered that little blue wheel that indicates that water is running was slowly spinning.  My husband started turning off water valves in an effort to isolate the area of the leak.  We identified the main line from the street as the likely suspect and started looking for wet areas.  My husband noticed what appeared to be standing water in an area adjacent to the neighbor's driveway under one of our hedges.  The problem was more obvious when we viewed it from neighbor's side.  

It was evident that the soil was saturated

 

My husband cut away some of the shrub foliage, moved the chimenea and pots I had in the area, and started digging while I contacted our neighbor, who was out of town at the time of our discovery. 

The chimenea and pots formerly sat at the end of the flagstone path in front of the hedge

Removing the soil from the area around the pipe created a miniature pond

The pipe couldn't be evaluated or repaired without turning off the water

When we realized we couldn't turn off the city's water line, we started reaching out to plumbers.  The best option we were able to arrange was a slot almost one week out.  My husband suggested that I could scoop water from our new "pond" to water the garden.  I tried that but, after the pond refilled almost immediately every time it was anywhere near empty, I was worried about leaving things as they were for a week.  I leapt several hurdles after that to expedite service that I won't bore you with.  The plumbers arrived Thursday morning.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to turn off the city's line either.  Although I'd requested assistance from the water service administrator to turn off the city's line on Thursday morning, the service provider was delayed by more than two hours.  However, once the city line was off, everything went more smoothly than I'd anticipated.

The little water spout you can see in spurting from the middle of the pipe in this closeup photo is the result of what's called a pin-hole leak.  Given the sheer amount of water pooling up in the area, I was surprised there wasn't a larger break.

A pile of heavy wet mud was left behind

The pipe after repair
 

Based on one prior experience with a pin-hole leak, it could take two or more weeks for the soil to dry out so we can put everything back.  My husband and I need to wrangle with the cost versus benefit of replacing the copper pipe all along the main line.  How much of the garden would have to be dug up is a significant factor but so is the water wasted with each of these events.  With a house more than 70 years old, this kind of unpredictable surprise could very well happen again, wiping away the gains I make in conserving water in one fell swoop.

On a more positive note, the neighbor commented on how nice the plants along her driveway are looking with all that extra water.


 

May your weekend be free of unpleasant surprises.


All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party




20 comments:

  1. Yikes! That's a lot of water, glad you were able to get help but how horrible that you can't easily turn of the city's line.

    I am finally caught up on your blog, so many posts that I haven't commented on but enjoyed.

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    1. It was also unnerving that the plumbing service, which has special tools, couldn't turn the city line off. They tried but, as they're liable if something breaks in the process, they didn't push their luck and force it open. I let the plumbing service know ahead of time that the water service rep was only committed to drop by sometime within a 2-hour window but I still felt bad that they were left cooling their heels (even though I expected that it factored into our bill). I brought them something to eat while they were waiting...

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  2. How annoying! I wonder if daily or weekly inspection of the little blue wheel can help detect pin hole leaks more quickly than the water bill. I hope the rest of your weekend will be relaxing, and please avoid lightning storms at all cost!
    Chavli

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    1. You're right, Chavli - we should be checking the little blue wheel at least weekly. We talked about doing that the first time this happened. It requires a crowbar to open the water meter's cover but I can probably do that by myself...

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  3. Double yikes!! So glad you heeded the warning about lightening strikes and so sorry for the family of the woman and her dogs. Like Danger Garden I am running seriously behind reading and commenting and wonder if I should just start fresh instead of trying to catch up. What a dilemma about the pinhole leaks but I think you are right - once it starts happening it will probably be an ongoing dilemma. Is it better to have controlled chaos or chaos that might happen at the most inopportune time? Good luck, Kris.

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    1. I think we should at least solicit an estimate and determine where the workers would have to dig. My husband's concerned that the line runs under or very near the 3 well-established citrus trees :(

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  4. Oh, golly, not good news at all. After all the conservation measures you do, you must feel crestfallen, Kris. It's like death by a thousand cuts repairing leaks as they come, or being pro-active and replacing the lines. Neither are fun prospects. Eliza

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    1. No, there's no perfect solution but Chavli's right that at a minimum we should try to keep ahead of the issue. I've no idea how long this most recent leak was wasting water before it became obvious. We keep our eyes open for wet spots but both the pin-hole leaks we've had were in spots where they were difficult to detect. We might never have found the first one if we hadn't used a leak detection service that utilizes sound waves.

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    1. I've been feeling very defeated but I'm trying to rally, HB.

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  6. What a pain. Just the thought of you having to dig up your garden to replace the pipes is overwhelming. Good for you for keeping track of your water usage or it might have gone on for much longer. Frustrating when you are imposing so many water saving methods to have this happen.

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    1. I think even my husband is dismayed by what replacing even one section of pipe would mean, Elaine. It's too bad we didn't discover the problem in the early days when we were digging up all that sod.

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  7. It is amazing what a very small leak can do .. I feel for you with trying so hard to conserve water and to have this happen ? Plus future costs you will be calculating is challenging. Then what may happen with areas of the garden when replacing the piping . A major headache for sure . The story about the woman and her two dogs is very scary .. we have had some weird pop up storms but not that often thankfully .. when I hear thunder I head for the indoors ! I hope things will go more smoothly for you Kris .. fingers crossed !

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    1. Thanks CGJ. At least there are no thunderstorms on the horizon at the moment ;)

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  8. Oh what a pain - good to have it all fixed though. I've never seen copper pipes used for main water lines here. I guess if you end up having to replace them completely, you could recuperate some of the costs by selling the copper for scrap. Copper pipes are often nicked by thieves from building sites here- even copper statues have been stolen!

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    1. There have been scrap metal thefts here too, Horticat. I don't think copper pipe is used in new housing anymore. PVC pipe is now the norm but our house is old by local standards.

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  9. That would make me heartsick. Water is too precious and expensive to waste, and I know you, like me, try every way to conserve it in any way we can. I'm so glad you discovered the problem and were able to get it resolved so quickly. Excessively high water bills can wreck any budget in no time.

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    1. It did make me sick at heart and sick to my stomach, Cindy. Undoubtedly, our next bill will also be high as we were 2 weeks into the next billing period when we discovered the leak.

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  10. I hate plumbing/irrigation issues ! I have a leak that I need to have repaired, fortunately there is a ball valve I can turn off which just means I can't use one of my hose bibbs and have to drag more hoses around. I'll get it fixed when I enter into retirement next week and don't have to worry about work commitments anymore !

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    1. My husband attempted a temporary work-around to conserve water recommended by another plumber we called but it wasn't possible to implement without temporarily turning off the main water line. I'm glad the plumbing service took pity when I called and appealed their one week delay. Best wishes with your upcoming retirement!

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