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When you think your sprinkler system is leaking, you may not be sure you can diagnose the issue yourself. However, a quick troubleshooting routine on your part can narrow down potential causes to determine the appropriate course of action. Here are three signs a leak is probably happening, and tips to uncover why it is occurring:

1. Soggy Spots and Standing Water

Determine if the presence of excess water is due to poor drainage of surface water or a leak from your sprinkler system.

  • Symptoms of poor soil drainage can include: puddles of water persisting after recent rain, especially collecting in natural dips and depressions in your lawn, yellowing landscape plants, and more.
  • Slow sprinkler leaks underground can result in noticeable marshy spots that can either contribute to lusher patches of grass, or if it’s a bigger leak, areas of dying grass from drowning and rotting roots. 
    • Another indicator would be bubbling water coming up from the ground while the system is on.
  • Ultimately, check your sprinkler system flow sensor, which may register a change in the sprinkler’s rate of flow if there is a leak.

2. Low Head Draining

This is a situation when one or more sprinkler heads continue to drain water for a time after the system stops running. This occurs when a yard is sloped and gravity pulls the water left in the sprinkler lines down to the lowest head(s). Even a small elevation change can result in low head draining.

  • If the excess water begins to waterlog the surrounding grass or plants, or is wasted by spilling onto sidewalks or roads, to fix the issue you may need to clean or replace your drain check valves.

3. Inconsistent Spray or Sprinkler Heads Failing to Pop Up

This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as a leak, clog or low water pressure. This issue presents as water slowly or inconsistently coming out of the sprinkler, perhaps spitting of air or other symptoms of sputtering that prevent the system from watering properly.

  • Check to see if low water pressure exists throughout the whole home, testing indoor faucets and other water fixtures. 
  • Check to see if the valves on either side of your sprinkler’s backflow device are fully open – both these valves are closed during winter and turned on again in the spring.
  • If you’ve ruled out low water pressure and your backflow device as reasons, you could indeed have a leak, which may result in inconsistent, sputtering spray or sprinkler heads failing to pop up.

Your irrigation system is complex; due to normal wear and tear it can in fact spring a leak. Before you call a contractor to investigate what you think may be a leak, some quick detective work of your own could speed up a resolution. Your troubleshooting efforts will help determine your next steps, such as conducting DIY repairs or calling a Certified Irrigation Contractor for professional assistance from an experienced sprinkler technician.

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