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Troubleshooting Leaks from Aquascape

February
16th
PondMeister

We received a question from one of our Facebook fans tonight on finding a leak in a pond. We would like to share with you a document from Aquascape produced for Contractors to help them locate a leak in a pond. Keep in mind that this is geared towards Aquascape ponds with Skimmers and BioFalls but the basic principles are fairly universal.

 

Troubleshooting Leaks by Aquascape

Step 1: Does The Pond Actually Have A Leak?

Often, the new pond owner doesn’t realize how much water can evaporate from a pond during the dog days of summer. 

  • The midwestern states typically lose 1” to1 1/2” inches of water each week. 
  • Contractors down in the hot, arid southwest, such as Arizona, have reported evaporation levels in excess of 3” a week. 

 Remember, these are averages.  Some ponds may not experience evaporation levels this high, while other ponds with large pumps pushing high volumes of water, and/or ponds designed with multiple waterfalls with a lot of cascades and splashing, may have evaporation rates much greater than these. 

Step 2: Look For Low Edges

After you’ve talked to the pond owner and determined there is a leak, the next step is to visit the pond. 

  • Here’s a little secret.  99% of all leaks are not due to a hole in the liner, but rather water making its way over the edges of the pond, stream, or waterfalls.
  • Look for any low edges.  Settling at the pond’s edge is the most common cause of a leak, especially in a new pond.
  • Typically, the low edges are found around the stream and waterfall where settling may have occurred after a few rainfalls.  These areas are usually built up during the construction of the pond using the soil from the excavation, and are prone to some settling. 
  • Look for signs of a low edge.
    • Wet mulch along the edge of the pond or stream.
    • Wet gravel along the edge of the pond or stream.
  • You may need to move back the gravel in certain areas to find the low edge.  

How To Fix A Low Edge

Low edges can be built back up by simply back filling and compacting soil beneath the liner in order to raise the edge of the liner above the water level. 

Step 3: Look For Obstructions In The Stream And Waterfalls

  • Check to make sure nothing is causing the leak by restricting the flow of water down the waterfalls or stream.  The pond owner may have adjusted some of the rocks in the waterfalls in order to improve the look of the falls, inadvertently causing some of the water to be diverted over the liner.  We’ve actually had customer’s kids relocate rocks in the streams in order to create a battlefield for their army men.
  • Water can also make its way over the edge due to excessive plant or algae growth in the stream or BIOFALLS®.  The water simply gets backed up from all of the plant growth.  Plants and algae should be maintained by trimming them back in order to let the water pass freely.  
  • All in all, these leaks are extremely easy to fix.  You can save yourself some time down the road by spending a few extra minutes with new pond owners at the time of installation teaching them how to identify and fix minor leaks such as these. 

Step 4: Shut Down The Pump

You’ve spent 15 minutes or so following the suggestions listed above and you still can’t find the leak.  What do you do next?  Well, we now have to go one step further and try to narrow things down a little more. 

  • Turn off the pump and leave the pond for a period of 12 or more hours.
  • Revisit the site after 12 hours, or ask the homeowner to call the next day and let you know if the water level has dropped.  

What Does This Determine?

  • If the customer calls and says the water level has dropped then we know the leak is in the pond
  • If the water level remains the same in the pond then it is assumed that the leak is in the stream.

*This procedure helps us save time by narrowing down the source of the leak.

If The Leak Is In The Pond

The pond owner calls and states that the pond’s water level dropped while the pump was turned off.  We now know that the leak is in the pond.

  • When our crew goes out to fix the leak, they concentrate their efforts on looking for the leak in the pond and completely ignore the waterfalls/stream. 
  • Before rushing out to visit the site, wait until the water level stops dropping.  This may take a few hours or a couple days, but will help determine the height of the leak.  Have the homeowner call back when they notice the water level is no longer dropping. 
  • Visit the site and concentrate your search around the perimeter of the pond at the level that the water has stopped dropping. 
  • If the water level stopped below the bottom of the skimmer face plate you can rule out the skimmer and concentrate elsewhere. 
  • If the water level is above the bottom of the face plate you should investigate the skimmer.  It may not have sealed correctly, but don’t tear apart the skimmer face plate.  

If The Leak Is In The Skimmer

  • Investigate the skimmer face plate without disassembling it. 
  • Simply move a few rocks around the front of the skimmer and slide your hand behind the liner.  Feel for wet soil around the opening of the skimmer. 
  • If it’s bone dry, it’s most likely not the skimmer.
  • If the soil is saturated, then the face plate may have not been installed properly and might be the source of the leak. 
  • Remove the face plate, clean all of the old silicone off the liner, and refer back to the instruction manual on proper procedures for sealing the skimmer face plate to the skimmer.  Hopefully, you’ve solved the leak  

If It’s Not The Skimmer

  • Investigate the liner for small punctures around the perimeter of the pond where the water level has stopped.
  • Unfortunately, the only effective way to find this type of leak is to start moving rocks and gravel and search for the leak by hand and eye. 
  • The leak, once found, can be easily fixed using Aquascape’s EPDM patch tape. 

Example of a shutdown procedure where the leak is in the waterfalls/stream

  • The pond owner calls and states the ponds water level has not dropped over the past 12 hours.
  • This immediately tells us that the pond is not the source of the leak.  So, in other words, do not waste your time looking in the pond or the skimmer for the leak…it’s not down there.  The leak is somewhere upstream! 
  • Turn the pump back on and get the waterfall flowing again. 
  • First, double check that all of the edges are high, and any stream liner overlaps or liner seams are done correctly. 
  • Secondly, check to make sure the seal on the lip of the BIOFALLS® was installed correctly and is watertight.  
  • Don’t tear apart the BIOFALLS® lip!  You can investigate the BIOFALLS® lip without completely disassembling the waterfalls. 
  • Move a few rocks around the side of the BIOFALLS® and/or remove some soil from the side of the BIOFALLS®, allowing you to slide your hand behind the liner.
  • Feel for wet soil around the BIOFALLS®. 
  • If it’s bone dry, it’s most likely not the seal on the BIOFALLS®.
  • If the soils saturated, or you feel water leaking, then the lip needs to be resealed.
  • Important Note:  A few things could have caused the leak at the point of the BIOFALL® seal.  Either the seal was done incorrectly, or the liner was stretched or pulled too tight while setting rocks for the waterfalls.  Make sure to give yourself liner slack along the front of the BIOFALLS® to prevent stress on the BIOFALLS® seal.
  • Reseal the BIOFALLS® by removing the BIOFALL® Lip.  Clean all of the old silicone and waterfall foam off the liner, and refer back to the instruction manual on properly sealing the BIOFALLS® lip.
  • If you have still been unable to find the source of the leak begin to investigate the rest of the stream and the waterfalls.
  •  At this point it is most likely a hole that you should be searching for. 
  • If the waterfall is right off the side of the pond, or only 5’ back from the pond, the most efficient method is to remove the rocks and gravel in the waterfall area and search for the leak by hand and eye. The leak, once found, can be easily fixed using Aquascape’s EPDM patch tape. 

Narrowing Down The Leak On Long Streams

  • Leaks can also be narrowed down on waterfalls and streams by performing the “pipe test.” 
  • The pipe test will take a few days to determine the location of the leak, but it will be well worth the effort. 
  • The pipe test consists of a section of pipe laid on the ground.  The pipe is connected to the pump in the skimmer. The pump is turned on and the end of the pipe is then set at the lowest point in the waterfalls/stream. 
  • We then either travel back to the pond the next day or have the homeowner call us to let us know if the water level in the pond has dropped. 
  • If it hasn’t dropped we move the pipe 10 feet further up the stream.  We do this process until we notice the water drop in the pond.  We know that once the water drops, the leak can be found within 10 feet of the pipe.  We can then move the rocks and gravel to search for the leak by hand and eye. 
Tips From Team Aquascape: 

Tip 1:You can sometimes determine if the seals on the skimmer and BIOFALLS® are water tight by temporarily moving a few rocks around the front of the filter allowing you room to feel for wet soil behind the liner. 

Tip 2: You may want to save yourself some time down the road by spending a few extra minutes with the pond owners teaching them how to identify and fix minor leaks such as low edges and excessive plant growth. 

Tip 3: It’s difficult to find a leak if the ground is wet from recent rainfall.  Wait to look until dry weather. 


date Posted on: Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 at 11:20 pm
Category Pond Tips, Questions and Answers.
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12 Responses to “Troubleshooting Leaks from Aquascape”

  1. Judy

    We found our leak when the fish were belly up. Moved them to stock pond until warmer weather when we can look at liner. Thanks for your tips. And the pond water does evaporate a lot.

    February 18th, 2010 at 9:44 am
     
  2. Epdm Liner

    Thats really good to know, i am sure these step will be helpful in making success and finding good solution for ponds repair, thanks for sharing.

    June 23rd, 2010 at 3:53 am
     
  3. Marty

    Very informative, however, my skimmer problem is that it has risin out of the ground over the five years from pond construction (probably due to water creepin under the skimmer basin … Is there a way to fix this problem without disturbing the pond …

    August 5th, 2010 at 10:26 am
     
  4. PondMeister

    I think you have to drain the pond and re-set the skimmer but better call Aquascape Tech at 877-766-3489 for the definitive word.

    August 6th, 2010 at 9:53 am
     
  5. Linda Rogers

    we have a poolless waterfall and have had a water loss for sometime. The installer could not find the reason. He thought roots outside the area(which do not go into the pond or over the
    edge. The liner is rubber.

    We got a new pump put in by someone else and it still is loosing water.

    There is no sign of moist soil or obvious water around the site.

    The pond is 3 years old. When first installed we had to replace water every 10-14 days. Then by end of year about every 4-5 days and about 3-4 months after that every 2-3 days . Now it is after 4 hours.

    We just had someone else come out and they thought reservoir maybe not big enough for pump or overflow there. Built larger reservoir. They left and said to wait 2 days before adding water because of quikcret to hold top stones in place. We waited
    excited to be able to once again use the waterfall and 4 hours later the same thing.

    The piping is rubber or heavy hose of somekind that the workers said guaranteed for 20 years and couldn’t be a leak there, plus no sign of water.

    Our filter is at the top of the first fall then a small stream.
    then a waterfall where water meanders about 1 1/2 foot then another small fall and does that one more time before it hits the gravel of the poolless pond.

    Help!Help

    Any suggestions.

    We are in McDonough, Georgia.

    April 16th, 2011 at 6:43 am
     
  6. PondMeister

    What a nightmare and I know how frustrating it is. Sounds like you have already had some pond guys try to find the leak. All I can suggest is to keep trying. Are there any other pond contractors in your area? Have you tried the http://www.aquascapeinc.com website and the “Find a Contractor” button. These guys are pretty good usually.

    April 20th, 2011 at 10:57 pm
     
  7. Teresa

    I feel your pain. We’ve turned off our pump and the water stays at the same water level for at least 3 days, so we’re pretty confident that the liner is in good shape, have you done that? We think ours is losing water from the spray at the waterfall. Can’t find a solution. We may go months and not add water, then it’s every 4-7 days? I just don’t get it. We’ve had 2 different pond builders look at it but cannot find a fix. I’m ready to fill ours with dirt…am over it!
    Any suggestions would be appreciated too
    Teresa

    March 20th, 2013 at 4:09 pm
     
  8. PondMeister

    I feel your pain but every 4 – 7 days is not too bad as when it is dry and hot, you can easily lose 1/2″ water per day. Have you tried an Auto-fill valve like the Aquascape Compact Fill Valve?

    March 20th, 2013 at 6:40 pm
     
  9. dana

    Hi. How do you fix a leak in a preformed pond?

    March 28th, 2014 at 5:13 pm
     
  10. PondMeister

    I would recommend Gold Label Pond & Aquarium Sealer by Hutton Aquatic Products

    March 28th, 2014 at 6:34 pm
     
  11. anne luczkowski

    Every year we go through this same scenario, we start the pond up after my husband cleans the falls and changes the charcoal bags.we clean out the leaves and debri and then start the pump, our problem is that the water gets drained out of the pump skimmer automatically and it will go on for a month or two where we have to fill the skimmer with water than all of a sudden it fixes it’s self.where we won’t have to add water to the pond for weeks at a time. we can’t figure out what happens, do you have any ideas?

    May 1st, 2014 at 8:22 am
     
  12. Jeff

    I have had a pond “contractor” come out and said the skimmer face needed to be repaired. I need to do this by myself cause he takes too long to get back to me. What materials does it take and where can I purchase them?

    June 6th, 2014 at 2:27 pm