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I have a shutoff valve in the crawlspace that operates just the four outside hose faucets. Heard the water rushing last year and sure enough the water meter at the road was reflecting water usage when we weren't using anything in the house.

I replaced the existing shutoff valve and it will shutoff the water to those outside faucets, but if I open it up the water is still rushing somewhere and the water meter shows usage. I have been everywhere in the crawlspace, inside the house, and the attic but can find no water coming out anywhere. The outside faucets will show a normal flow of water when I turn each on individually if I open up the valve, but no leaks to be found.

Any ideas? Do I need a different shutoff valve (I am using a standard one with the red circular shutoff handle)? Any thoughts would be appreciated. I let it go until now since we weren't here for months, in case you were wondering.

  • You must carefully trace all the pipes from the shutoff valve to the four outside faucets. – A. I. Breveleri Apr 23 at 15:06
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    Did the house ever have an irrigation system or automatic sprinkler installed? – A. I. Breveleri Apr 23 at 15:07
  • Are the outside faucets actually in the yard? With buried pipe from the house? – Tyson Apr 23 at 15:13
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    Something very odd here. Drain lines don't have shutoff valves, normally. And if one did, it would not cause a leak from the supply side. Though closing it (if that's what it is) and opening in the supply valve might just clarify where the leak is coming from, by backing up the associated drain, if it IS the associated drain. Curiouser and curiouser.... – Ecnerwal Apr 23 at 19:23
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    Can you post pictures of these valves and any plumbing around them? – Tyson Apr 23 at 19:48
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It's clearly NOT the shutoff valve - water is going somewhere, and the valve is shutting it off. So it's doing it's job. There has to be a pipe, or a branch off a pipe that is going somewhere and running water, after that valve, from what you have described.

Typically where water is heard and the water meter is spinning but you don't see any, it's going into a drain somewhere - why anything tied to the "outside faucet shutoff under the house" would do that, I surely don't know, unless it is irrigation or pool related - my usual suspect inside the house (because I had one that did this occasionally, and when it kept doing it every so often after I cleaned the valves to stop it each time, finally replaced it) is a water softener, but that seems highly unlikely here.

Depending strongly on the pipe layout, you might get an indication of which branch is most suspect by measuring the pressure at each outside faucet. Not guaranteed, but possibly one will be considerably lower than the others, and that would be the one to double-check the pipe to, for any branches you may have missed.

Toilets are the other usual one, but they tend to be more obvious as far as being seen/heard misbehaving. Not to mention that you'd notice it not filling with the shutoff closed.

  • You got me thinking, Ecnerwal. There was a toilet that we first heard the rushing at last year, but didn't see anything obvious. I could shut that off and see if that is the issue. If not I have a few other ideas from your answer, including checking each possible connection in turn. Thanks! – ChuckY Apr 23 at 15:37
  • If the toilet is working and the valve that your question is about is shutoff the it’s not the toilet. – Tyson Apr 23 at 15:43
  • Yeah, you are right, Tyson. It was likely just coincidence that our initially hearing the rushing near that toilet was just its proximity to the shutoff valve in the crawlspace below. Thanks. – ChuckY Apr 23 at 15:48
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To help narrow down where the leak is, you could gently heat up the various pipes (a hair dryer would work well for this). Turn the the water is on, and feel which one gets colder in temperature as water goes through it, as the incoming water is probably cooler than the ambient air in your crawl space. It may take a few iterations to find which of the outside faucets have a leak, but this at least would help you narrow it down a bit to at least a specific branch of your outside faucet plumbing.

  • It. Could. Work!!! youtu.be/4An1BrG2u_4 ;-) – Ecnerwal Apr 24 at 2:54
  • I just noticed that you said you have PVC pipes. If you do heat them up, don't get them too hot, as PVC tends to not like really hot (i.e. more than boiling water) temperatures. I don't know the exact temps they'll start deforming, but just warm the pipe up a bit above body temperature should be enough to tell where the water is running. – Milwrdfan Apr 24 at 2:57
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Many times under ground pipes have rusted, or corroded or cracked and the water is going into the earth. If all your faucets are closed. I find a dowel is a good tool to listen for water movement, press the dowel to the ground then to your ear, move and listen again I have narrowed my search for a leaking water main from 100' to less than 2' by using this method. I have even found broken pipes under concrete , kind of like a stethoscope. I have found leaks in galvanized, copper and PVC in the ground.

  • Appreciate all the replies everyone has sent. At this point I do not have a leak at any of the four outside faucets. If I did I would know since they come directly out of the basement wall, so I would have definitely seen a leak outside or inside the crawlspace. Also I misspoke when I said the drain line had a shutoff valve; that was the main water line coming into the crawlspace from underground. Lastly, I have tried every shutoff valve in the crawlspace (hot water heater, etc) and have no issue with any of them. – ChuckY Apr 24 at 22:09
  • At this point all I have left is the pressure relief valve (although why would that be a problem only when I open up the line for the outside faucets) or the single faucet not attached to the house, but rather it is about 40 feet out into the backyard. Can't think of anything else. – ChuckY Apr 24 at 22:12
  • For what it is worth, my wife believes she saw a lightning strike hit the ground nearby, although it might have been on our neighbor's lot in fairly close proximity to ours. That might have caused the outside faucet removed from the house to take a hit; just my guess. Your suggestion, Ed B, is one I might have to try. – ChuckY Apr 24 at 22:14
  • I want to say thank you to everyone for your help. I found the problem, which is the remote yard hydrant about 30-40 feet from the house. All the faucets attached to the house appear to be fine, so I checked that one and it has no water coming out of it. Rather than dig up the yard I plan to put a shutoff valve on that line just before it exits out the crawlspace, since I have never used that hydrant the whole 9 years we have been here. Again, thank you and thanks to StackExchange for the excellent website. – ChuckY Apr 25 at 20:18

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