September 18, 2013

We thought we had resolved our water issues out back several months ago, but the last few water bills tell us otherwise. I’ve been meaning to troubleshoot the southeast corner of the back yard because that’s where the ground continues to be wet from back in January, when Carmelo’s guy accidentally set my weekly one hour watering schedule to run daily, inundating the area with so much water that one of our queen palms died from rot and the above-ground pebble-tec border around the pool cracked in several places. Even after correcting the watering schedule fiasco (hereafter known as “the watering schedule fiasco”), the area has never really dried out completely, leading us to believe we still have water issues there.

Why hasn’t this issue been tackled sooner? Simply put, it’s all been about timing and priorities. First there was golf season and my fervent preparation for Goodboys Invitational weekend, and then it got too hot to do any kind of hard manual labor. Then came monsoon season and the wet last two weeks of August. Sure, I could have taken the easy way out and simply paid someone to do it, but without knowing exactly where the leak – or leaks – are, I’d be paying someone to rip up the whole area, and what if they didn’t find anything? You’re potentially talking about hundreds of dollars of work. I had little doubt that a professional would ultimately be needed to plug whatever leak(s) were found, but if anyone was going to find them it was going to be me.

Sunday turned out to be the perfect day for digging and leak-seeking: not too hot, and no rain for the past week. The first thing was to clear all the crushed rock that goes anywhere from an inch to four inches in spots so as to uncover all the drip lines – the idea being to cap all the drips, turn the watering stations on, and see if any water appears. (See, if there’s no water coming out of the drips but water still appears, that would indicate a leak somewhere, either via a leak in the drip lines connections to the main lines, or perhaps a previously unknown drip line whose emitter has blown off. It couldn’t be a leak in the main lines themselves; if that were the case my whole back yard would be under water!)

After clearing the rock with a rake I then carefully used a trowel to follow the various drip lines to the main lines. I had to be careful because there’s not just irrigation underground but wiring for the landscaping lights as well. What a pain in the ass that was:

The other issue is that there are two main lines by which water hits the various drips, station 5 (traditionally called the “palms station”) and station 6 (the back yard plants and bushes). So the only way to test for leaks is to run each station manually for a period of time and see if either results in water spurting from somewhere it shouldn’t. I turned on station 5 to run a good fifteen minutes and watched with great anticipation as to see what would happen (or not). At first there was nothing, but around the six-minute mark I saw the soil getting damp and started digging with my hands until I came to a small puddle and water bubbles appearing at a connection between a drip line I never even knew existed and the main line. I then repeated the same thing for station 6, and damned if I didn’t see yet another puddle appearing, close to same spot as the other leak. Digging carefully around both leaks, I found a veritable maze of old pipe, electrical wiring, and palm tree roots:

What was really disturbing was that the two main lines and the electrical wiring were all laid on top of each other, with palm tree roots intertwined in spots that made it difficult to excavate further without risking making a bad situation worse. A day and $162 later the guy from Hawkeye Landscaping had cleared the whole area, identified two 6′ long stretches of main pipe that needed to be replaced, and re-positioned the main water and electric lines to give them room to breath amidst all the palm tree roots, which had caused the problem to begin with.

I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but after the guy left I was checking all the connections out and turned station 5 back on for a few minutes just to enjoy looking at dry ground. It was then I heard then faint sound of bubbling water – something the Hawkeye guy couldn’t have heard because of the pool filter running while he was there. Once again I found myself clearing a new area of rock, and sure enough, there was more wet ground. Digging down with my hands, I found two drip line connectors (wrapped around each other, no less!) leaking not badly, but enough. So today Mr. Hawkeye will pay another visit – hopefully just to replace the drip lines, but another new replacement stretch of main line might be needed.

What it all boils down to is the original lines were all put in haphazardly and too close to the queen palms when the original three trees were just saplings; over time they got bigger and their root systems expanded out and began competing for the same space. All that moving ground and rock then pressed against the connectors and started dislodging them, unfortunately all on my tab. And there’s nothing I can do about it unless I wanted to cut the remaining queen palm down, excavate the entire area and reposition everything before replanting or just leave the entire area empty. But I love the queen palm and miss having the three palms by the pool fountain – it’s one of the reasons we bought the house to begin with. So all one can do is fix what you can the best way possible and hope for the best going forward.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments Off on Leaks
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