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How to Troubleshoot a Water Leak in Your Front Yard

Troubleshooting from George Brazil

Water leaks aren’t something to ignore.

If you’re suddenly paying higher water bills and notice water surfacing in your yard, the faster you act the better.

Water leaks in your yard can cause damage to your home and cost thousands of dollars in repairs.

The first step to fixing the problem is to find the source of the leak.

If you have a leak in your front yard, the source is usually one of these 3 places:

  • Sewer line
  • Main water line
  • Irrigation system

To help you determine which is the source, we’ll go through the signs of each leak and how to locate where the leak is coming from.

Leak in your sewer line

All of the drains in your house (sinks, toilets, etc.) lead into one main line that then exits into your septic tank or the municipal sewer system. That line is responsible for disposing of your waste water and is referred to as the sewer line.

Let’s look at some of the signs that your sewer line has sprung a leak.

Signs of a sewer line leak:

The typical signs of a sewer leak include the obvious stench of sewage. This stink is usually accompanied by unusually green and lush grass and/or the sudden appearance of rats who are attracted to the smell of sewage.

How to test for a sewer line leak:

Want to be sure that the leak is coming from your sewer line?

The best way to guarantee that you have a sewer line leak is to have an Arizona plumber perform a camera inspection of your sewer lines.

But if you’re interested in a preliminary DIY test, try this sewer leak dye test.

Step 1: Get any kind of dye (food dye, clothing dye, etc.).

Step 2: Pour a few ounces of the dye down the toilet and flush several times.

Step 3: Wait about 30-60 minutes and check the leaky area in the yard. If the dye shows up, you have a leak in your sewer line.

Leak in your main water line

The “main water line” refers to the line that runs underground from your water meter and into your house entry point.

Signs of a main water line leak:

The most telling signs of a leak in the main water line are:

  • Higher-than-normal water bills
  • Water surfacing in the front yard

How to test for a main water line leak:

Testing for a main water line leak follows simple logic: turn off all water flow into your house and then see if the water meter is still reading a flow of water. If it does, you have a leak in your main water line.

Makes sense, right?

To test the main water line for a leak, follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Locate your home’s shut-off valve. Start by checking for this valve along an outside wall, in a utility area of the house or in the basement.

Step 2: Cut off water to your house by turning off the shut-off valve. This will cut off all water supplied to your house.

Step 3: Now locate your water meter. This is usually located in the ground outside of your home and is covered with a metal or plastic top marked “Water Meter.” It will be located outside on your property next to the sidewalk, possibly near the driveway.

Step 4: Open the water meter cover (either with a manhole key or a screwdriver) and read the water meter for a leak. (Be careful here; meter boxes are great places for creepy crawlers.)

There are two kinds of water meter displays: digital and analog.

How to read a digital water meter for a leak:
Check the flow screen rate. If the flow screen is blank just shine a flashlight on it (it’s activated by light). After activated, it should flash a number. If the number flashing is ever over 0 you have a leak on the main service line.

How to read an analog water meter for a leak:
Check both the long red arm (like a clock arm) and the small triangle to the left side of the screen. If either one is moving, you have a leak on the main service line.

Don’t have a leak at the main service line? Your next option is to check for a…

Leak in your irrigation system

Your irrigation system refers to your sprinkler system in your yard. This water feeds from the main line. But if you have an underground irrigation system, the lateral lines, valves, or sprinkler heads could be leaking water into your front yard.

Signs of an irrigation leak:

Signs that the leak is coming from your irrigation system include flooding around the base of a particular sprinkler head or water spurts in the spaces between sprinklers.


To test whether the leak is coming from your irrigation follow these steps:

Step 1: Turn on your home’s water shut-off valve.

Step 2: Make sure none of your home’s water using devices are in use (sinks, toilets, dishwasher, etc.).

Step 3: Locate and read your water meter for leaks (refer to the instructions above for help on reading your meter). If the meter indicates a leak, your irrigation system is the culprit.

Another test you may want to try is to go to your irrigation system controller and manually cycle through each station one at a time (check the controller manual for information on how this is done).

While each station is operating, look over the active area for large amounts of water coming out of the ground, or a “geyser” from a broken or missing sprinkler head.

Sprinkler heads are designed to allow a certain amount of water out during each cycle. If a line is broken or a sprinkler head is missing, a lot more water is being wasted.

Don’t ignore your drip system in this process. A missing head on one of those small tubes can still release gallons of water at a time.

Need an Arizona plumber to repair your leak?

So now you know where your leak is coming from. Now you’ll need an AZ plumber to pinpoint the faulty area and fix it.

Our tip: Don’t drag your feet on this; you’re just wasting money the longer you wait to call a professional.

If you live in the Phoenix, AZ area, you’re in luck. Contact the leak repair professionals at George Brazil for a fast fix.

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