We moved into a home a couple years ago that was 1600 sq ft from a 3700 sq ft home. We were shocked that the power bill here was about 30% more than the big house but I suspected a water leak somewhere at the time. We cant find anything but we tried to dig a hole in the yard that filled with water... so we dug into the sand layer hoping it was ground water that would dissipate into sand but it just got worse... and our power bill is now up another 27%. We dug up a few pipes around the hole looking for leaks and cant find them. We don't know what to do? No one around here... well drillers plumbers excavators knows what to do? We are on a well and have all electric everything including a water pump type heating and cooling system. We did turn off the water last night and the power to the water pump and found that over a couple hours time we lost all the water in our reserve tank. Does this sound like a leak to you?? Please PLEASE help us!? We have exposed pipes now and they will freeze this hole is not drying up and we can sump pump the water out but if it is leaking water we don't want to pay to pump water out that isn't ground water. We have of course given up on the root cellar idea but we cant just fill in the hole... it wont likely dry and we need to find the source of the water somehow or at least verify that its not a leak and its just ground water or an underground spring!!

  • I had a similar situation. Had a leak on side of basement in wall. 5 companies came out and went on about new gutters or regradinng or whatever. I wasn't convinced because that side of the house, the ground was always dry. I dig 4 feet down and there is a damn river running through the side of my house. I diverted it away from house and all better now. Pics would help here for your issue.
    – DMoore
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 14:38
  • 1
    So you're saying the water pump is running continuously? Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 14:51
  • If the tank empties with the pump off, the leak is either in or under the house or leaking back through a bad check valve back into the well. The water in the hole could be a shallow water table and unrelated.
    – bcworkz
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 17:57

1 Answer 1


We did turn off the water last night and the power to the water pump and found that over a couple hours time we lost all the water in our reserve tank. Does this sound like a leak to you?

Maybe. Was the reservoir tank cut off (like with a valve) from draining back down the well? If there is a check valve, is it in good working order? If not, it is hard to say whether the reservoir fed a leak or just emptied back into the well.

To more definitively indicate if well water is causing the observed ground water, turn off the pump, close all the water valves (to prevent water flowing out of the pump house) and wait. Observe the ground water level every hour or two—maybe put in a stake or stick in the hole to better track it. Does the water go down? If so, a leak seems likely.

Leak detection

Doing a standard pipe pressure test would indicate quickly and conclusively identify whether there is a leak anywhere. It requires containing the pipe under test by closing valves or disconnecting and capping pipe, adding a gauge or other measuring device, and pressurizing the pipe, perhaps with a bicycle tire pump—a gas pipe pressure testing gauge has an air valve for this purpose; I haven't seen anything directly comparable for water pipes. Then just wait and watch. The pressure should remain, dropping no more than 5% per hour. (In my experience, temporary caps and a gauge for leak testing are the source of most pressure testing leaks. Generously apply plumbers tape.)

Finding a leak

If a leak is detected, then there are several choices to fix it find it and fix it. Which you choose depends on the specific situation, your budget, and your patience:

  • dig up all the pipe to inspect for leaks
  • abandon the existing pipe and install new
  • Sherlock Holmes

The first two are self-explanatory. The third involves looking for clues. Can you isolate part of the system—the hot water portion is an easy and obvious example—and see if leak continues? Maybe there is another portion: outdoor faucets, sprinkler system, barn, etc. which can be individually cut off from the main system.

A leak is most likely to develop at a pipe joint and the location of joints are reasonably predictable. If the pipe is PVC for example, it usually comes in 10 foot lengths (at least in the U.S.—but if it is freezing where you are, probably you are south of the equator so some other length—3 m?—applies), so you only need dig a hole every pipe joint to check—at least with good luck.

Also consider any recent changes if it got worse: Has a fence post been installed or did a tree fall? Dig around there for to look for pipe.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.