How To Fix A Pond Leak: Stop Your Yard From Becoming A Swamp
Keep The Water In Your Pond So Your Maryland, DC, Or Northern Virginia Yard Doesn’t Become A Swamp
Oh No!!! So you think you may have a pond leak or a leak in your water feature? Well, these nuisances can happen from time to time. Whether you’re a pond owner or a pond contractor the worst feeling is seeing a sudden decrease in your water level or getting the dreaded call saying that there’s a leak! So what now? Well first off stay calm. This can happen to anyone and the majority of the time there is a simple solution and usually a simple fix.
Leak vs. Evaporation
First of all, before attempting to take any corrective measures it is important to understand if there is even a leak in the first place. With every water feature, there will be some degree of splatter out or evaporation. Evaporation happens when atoms or molecules escape from the liquid and turn into vapor. Hot weather and wind are two factors that affect the evaporation rate of a pond or water feature.
Evaporation is inevitable and can be misleading sometimes in hot arid areas. On a pond, it wouldn’t be uncommon to lose anywhere from 1-3 inches a week depending on the area you are in. With a lot of wind, the rate could be even greater. In the DC metropolitan area somewhere right in the middle would be an accurate evaporation measurement for a one week time period.
Of course, it varies from pond to pond. Water features that have a lot of surface area, big streams and multiple waterfalls tend to lose water faster due to evaporation and splatter out too. It is important to understand that some water loss is normal, but excessive water loss can mean problems!
TroubleShooting a Leak
The key in troubleshooting leaks is to narrow down the search. It is important to note how much water loss is happening while the system is up and running to have a measurement to compare with the testing. So a measurement should be made on the amount of water loss in a 24 hour period while running the system.
Start by turning off / unplugging the motor(s). The same method works for a pond and pondless waterfall. Once everything is off (streams, waterfalls, etc.) top off the pond or basin to its maximum level for your starting point (mark it off).
Then let the pond, basin or collection area sit for at least 24 hours (without rain). If it’s hot and there are fish add an aerator to the pond to provide oxygen during this troubleshooting. After the 24 hours mark off the water level if the level has dropped and then let sit another 24 hours. Repeat this until the water has stopped draining.
If the pond continues to drain to dangerous levels for the fish they will need to be relocated to a separate holding tub. If the water never dropped at all or dropped just a very small amount during the first 24 hour time period then the pond/basin is holding can be eliminated from the search.
When the water level has stopped dropping check along that water level for the source of the leak (low edge, liner tear, concrete crack, failed skimmer seal, etc.). Always check first for the obvious: large rocks that may settle and weight down liner, wet mulch areas, wet gravel, even the skimmer to liner connection.
Most low edges may be adjusted by a homeowner but something like a tear, crack or failed seal most often needs to be serviced by a trained professional. Once the source is repaired/fixed properly and tested the water feature is able to be run again. Keep in mind that some water features could be leaking in multiple areas. So just because one leak is fixed doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is fixed. Check the streams, waterfalls and all the hardware to be sure.
If the pond itself has been eliminated from the equation then that means the water loss is coming from somewhere in between where the water exits the pond (plumbing), to where it returns back into the pond. The plumbing is usually the toughest part to check because it generally is buried. If it’s the plumbing hopefully there is an obvious wet area in the landscaping.
For ponds with multiple streams try running one at a time to see which one is creating the water loss. If there is only one stream check the liner edges with the pump on and water running. Look for wet areas alongside the stream and waterfall. Even check the top pool or filter (if there is one) to see if any water is spilling out there. In a lot of cases, water loss is simply a low edge or water diversions from leaves, debris, or overgrown plants. In situations that aren’t so obvious, it may be time to call a professional to have it looked at or fixed.