How to find a water leak in your yard

In this blog post, water leak detection detective extraordinaire, Sherleak Holmes discusses how to find a water leak in your yard.

A leaking water line or sprinkler system in your yard can seriously damage your lawn, plants, and driveway. Not to mention it wastes precious water and costs you money on your utility bill. Don’t ignore signs of a leak – take action to detect and repair it. This beginner’s guide walks you through the steps to find and fix a water leak in your yard.

However, we want to express the importance of using a professional water leak detection service like USA Leaks to find the water leaks in your yard. Whenever you are digging in your yard and working on irrigation pipes, it’s easy for bad things to happen and for your DIY project to become a disaster that costs you far more to repair than if you had just hired a specialist from the beginning. So, if you do decide to perform yard leak detection and repair yourself, be very careful.

Watch for Signs of a Water Leak

A sinkhole caused by a water leak meme

The first signs of a water leak may be subtle. Learn what to look for so you can catch it early:

  • Wet spots or muddy areas in your yard, especially after irrigation has been off for a while
  • Grass or plants that are growing faster or greener in one area
  • Soggy soil or sudden pooling of water
  • Sinkholes or soil depressions developing
  • Visible water pooling on driveway or sidewalks
  • Higher than normal water bill

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to start investigating for a leak.

Check Irrigation System and Components

A meme of a leaking underground sprinkler

Examine each component of your irrigation system to locate the source of a leak:

  • Check timers and controls – if a zone seems to turn on unexpectedly, there may be a short causing water to flow through the pipes or sprinkler heads.
  • Inspect sprinkler heads – look for heads that are continuously spraying water when they should be off, or heads that don’t pop up fully or rotate properly, which indicates a broken head.
  • Examine valves – a stuck valve that doesn’t close fully can leak water. Listen for the sound of water flowing through a valve that should be shut off.
  • Check pipes – look for wet spots or evidence of water bubbling up where pipes connect. Pressurize the system and spray pipes with a soap solution to check for leaks evidenced by growing bubbles.
  • Inspect backflow device – a leak here can indicate worn parts need replacement.
  • Check your water meter – turn all water off in your home and watch the meter dial for any movement, which indicates a leak somewhere.

Use Technology to Detect Water Leaks

modern leak detection technology meme

Specialized tools can help detect water leaks under the surface:

  • Moisture meter – this probe measures moisture levels in soil 6-8 inches down. Check around valves, pipes, and along irrigation lines. Higher moisture signifies a leak.
  • Thermal camera – this special camera detects temperature differences. Scan areas during the day when the sun has warmed dry ground more than wet areas to identify leaks.
  • Metal detector – use this to locate irrigation system pipes and scan areas along their routes for leaks.
  • Noise amplifier – this device detects the sound of water running through pipes. Use it over valves and along pipelines to hear flow indicating a leak.
  • Pressure gauge – attach this to an outdoor spigot and turn the water on to read pressure. Turn water off and watch for pressure drop which signals a leak in the system.

Follow Water Leak Safety Precautions

practice safe digging for water leaks meme

Use care when digging for a water leak:

  • Call 811 before you dig to get underground utility lines marked.
  • Hand dig carefully once lines are marked to avoid nicking pipes or wires.
  • Turn the water off at the shut-off valve before repairing lines.
  • Wear safety goggles and gloves when using tools to dig or repair lines.

How to Repair a Water Leak

underground pipe leak repair meme

Once you’ve detected the location of the leak, repair it with one of these solutions:

  • Broken sprinkler head – shut off the zone and replace the damaged head. Apply pipe joint compound to prevent future leaks.
  • Leaking tubing or pipe – cut out the broken section and replace it with new PVC pipe using couplers. Make sure pipe is fully inserted into couplers and pipe ends are smooth.
  • Hole in pipe – clean the area and apply a pipe patch as a temporary fix until you can replace the pipe section. Make sure patch adheres completely.
  • Leaking valve – shut off water and replace the valve and any cracked or damaged parts. Make sure to operate valve to test repair before reburying it.
  • Leaking at pipe joints – clean joint, apply pipe joint compound and tighten all fittings. Replace any cracked fittings.
  • Backflow device leaks – shut off water and replace any worn washers, o-rings, or other internal parts according to manufacturer directions.

Test Your Repair and Prevent Future Water Leaks

underground water leak pipe repair meme

After completing repairs:

  • Turn the water back on slowly and check for leaks. Make any additional repairs needed.
  • Operate each zone to test sprinkler operation and check for leaks.
  • Consider installing a leak detection system to alert you to future leaks.
  • In winter months, shut off and drain water from the irrigation system.
  • Insulate exposed pipes and backflow device to prevent freezing and cracks.


Catching and repairing water leaks quickly can save your lawn and prevent landscape damage. Follow this guide when you suspect a leak, and make repairs promptly. Your yard will look lush all season long and your water bill will thank you!

If you need help with finding water leaks in your yard, contact USA Leaks.