Underground water leaks can go undetected for a very long time. In most cases, they are only spotted once they have done enough damage that the signs can be seen from the surface. If you suspect you have a leak, it is vital to get it fixed as soon as possible as compromised pipes can cause big problems to infrastructure and can be extremely expensive due to sky-high water bills.

How do underground water leaks occur?

Water leaks that are located underground can occur due to a number of reasons, some of the most common being:

Chemicals: whether these are present in the water or soil, chemicals can cause underground pipes to erode, leading to cracks or holes in the pipe which allows water to get through. This damage tends to happen over a considerable period of time

Natural disasters: earthquakes and tremors can put pressure on pipework which can cause them to move, leading to cracks or splits

Wear and tear: older buildings and homes will have older pipework which over time will become rusty and may give way, resulting in cracks and leaks

Incorrect installation: this can be easily avoided by ensuring all pipework is carried out by a professional as poor or incorrect installation can cause pipes to leak

Trees: sometimes when trees grow close enough to pipes it can crush them and result in leakages

Signs of an underground water leak

As mentioned previously, underground water leaks are notoriously difficult to spot and typically are only seen once the damage has set in. Here are some of the signs you should look out for:

Sudden increase in water usage and costs

This is one of the number one signs of an underground water leak as usage and costs will skyrocket. In order to determine if you have a leak, locate your water meter and if possible, shut off the main water valve to the property. Take note of the numbers present on your meter and then leave it off for about an hour. Once you have done this, go back and see if the numbers have moved, if they have, it is highly likely you have a leak.

Cracked areas or bulges of pavement

It is common for underground leaks to cause damage to the area around them. If there is tarmac or concrete surrounding the leak, you may spot cracked areas, bulges or potholes or if earth or grass surrounds it, sinkholes can develop.

Unpleasant smells

When left for a long period, undetected leaks can cause mold which will result in an unpleasant smell in the area.

Low pressure in the water supply

Clogged, eroded or even ruptured water pipes may cause low pressure in the water supply.

Dirty water

Underground leaks can cause the water from faucets to be rusty, dirty or filled with air, however, sometimes this can be a sign of a different issue with your water supply.

Sounds from pipes

In some cases, you may be able to hear an underground water leak. Hissing sounds can indicate a decrease in water pressure, splashing may be a sign of water flowing around the pipe and clinking can be from pebbles and stones flowing and banging into the pipes.

How do you detect a water leak underground?

If you suspect there is a water leak underground on your property, contact a qualified plumber or engineer as soon as possible to identify and fix the issue. They will use a variety of specialist devices to narrow down the location of the leak which will reduce the additional costs and disruption that comes with digging to try and find the problem. Some techniques they may use include:

Thermal imaging

This is where a camera is used to identify pipe locations which are buried in the building structure. The thermal imaging will show differences in any surface temperatures and identify any potential leaks.

Acoustic leak detection

Acoustic leak detection is carried out using ultra-sensitive microphones to listen for any sounds of leakages from the compromised pipework.

Trace gas leak detection

Trace gas is non-toxic and does not cause harm to pipework or the environment. This method can be used to detect leaks on all pipework, including underfloor heating systems. It works by pressurizing the gas through the pipes which forces it through to the surface where it escapes and can be detected with a gas detector. This method is extremely useful as it allows for the leak to be narrowed down to a specific area and can even be located when underneath concrete.

Leak noise correlation

This is carried out using powerful electronic devices to locate leaks on pressurized pipes where the location is either unknown or the distances are high. It involves placing two sensors in contact with the pipe on both sides of a suspected leak, the sounds are then recorded and transmitted to a radio processing unit. From here, the unit uses mathematical algorithms to determine the location of the leak.

For more information about our water leak detection solutions here.

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