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Water Department

Posted on: March 1, 2019

Sprinkler System Checkup


Most homeowners catch indoor leaks quickly, but outdoor leaks and problems can be harder to find, especially with your irrigation system. Performing irrigation troubleshooting checks to determine if you have a leak or malfunctioning system can help you conserve water and save money. Irrigation systems should be checked and fixed on a regular basis. We recommend you visually inspect your sprinkler system once a month and have it checked by an irrigation specialist at least once a year. Here's what to look for: 

Irrigation Controller - Look at the controller to make sure the programming is reasonable. Sometimes an irrigation controller loses its programming due to loss of power, and goes on default, which may be the totally wrong schedule for your lawn.  Routinely checking your controller’s programming and time clock can ensure you are watering at the appropriate time of day, times per week and for a reasonable amount of time. Remember to make water only on your designated watering days and to make seasonal adjustments; less watering is needed when it's been raining and during cooler months. 

Sprinkler Valves - Locate and check each of your valve boxes. Are they flooded or dry? They should be dry. If they’re wet, and it hasn’t been raining, check them carefully for worn parts, loose wiring, or water leaking out between fittings. 

Sprinkler Stations - Turn the stations on one by one and look for these indications of wasted water:

  • Water geysers – which indicate broken or missing sprayheads.
  • Water spurts in the space between sprinkler heads – indicating a broken pipe (lateral line) that has already blown out the soil above it.
  • Flooded areas between sprinklers – can indicate a slow, steady leak in a lateral line underground. You will have to dig down to find the actual spot.
  • Spurts of water at the base of a sprinkler – indicating a broken seal where the nozzle or riser meets the supply line beneath.
  • Floods around the base of a sprinkler – grass may need to be cut shorter or a short riser replaced with a taller one. Also, could be an old valve that is not shutting off properly. 
  • Misaligned sprayhead – shoots water into a nearby obstruction or over the sidewalk or driveway, instead of grass. The sprayhead needs to be realigned. 

Keep in mind, if there are any breaks or loose fittings underground, the water loss may not be visible. Because water naturally flows in a path of least resistance and gravity pulls it down, many underground leaks do not appear on the surface of the ground. If your water usage has been unusually high, and you suspect an underground irrigation leak, consult an irrigation specialist. 

Visit to find a DIY video library of common sprinkler repairs. 

The city also offers free sprinkler system evaluations. You can request one online.

Just How Much Water Are You Putting on Your Lawn?

The amount of water irrigation systems use depends on a lot of factors including the number of and type of sprinkler heads the system has, and the amount of minutes that they are on. The only way to know for sure how much water you are putting on your lawn is to read your water meter. 

  1. Open your meter box lid and take a picture of the dial prior to starting irrigation. 
  2. Run your irrigation system for the amount of time you normally do. 
  3. Once your irrigation cycles are completed, take another picture of the dial. 
  4. Subtract the first reading from the second reading to calculate the amount of water used. This is how many cubic feet of water are going through your irrigation system for one watering. Multiply the amount by 7.48 to convert the amount of water used to gallons. 
  5. Multiply by the number of days to you water your lawn each month to see how much your irrigation system use is adding to your monthly water bill.

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