Pool owners know that water is lost to evaporation, and either a hose or an automatic pool water leveler (also called an autofill) replaces the lost water. However, there can be a sneakier, larger user of water when it comes to pools—a leak. Here are four ways to identify if you have a pool leak, and what to do about it.
1. Visually inspect. Where is the pool’s water level? Ideally, your water level is about halfway up the skimmer’s opening. If the water level is high, you may have a problem with your pool’s autofill. You can go check your water meter out front to see if there is constant water usage.
2. Listen. Do you hear any water running? If your autofill is constantly running, sometimes you can hear the water coming out of the autofill and into the pool. Locate the lid to the autofill and lift it up. Look and listen for running water.
3. Turn off the water supply to the pool. Usually the water supply to the pool is located in the back of the house near where the pool is—but not always. If you suspect you have a leak, locate the backflow preventer associated with the pool’s water supply. Turn one of the valves perpendicular to the pipe to stop the flow of water to the pool. See pages 10 and 17 of the Smart Home Water Guide for a visual on this.
4. Perform the “bucket test.” This test will help you determine if your pool is losing water to evaporation or to a leak.
· With the pool’s water supply still turned off, place a bucket, held down with a rock, on the first pool step.
· Fill the bucket so that the water level in the bucket matches the pool’s water level.
· Wait 2-3 days.
Scenario A: After 2-3 days, if the water levels are the same in the pool and the bucket, then you have only lost water to evaporation. Before you did the bucket test and turned off the water supply to the pool, was the autofill constantly running? If yes, and if your bucket test indicates you only lost water to evaporation, you likely have a malfunctioning autofill device (it won’t turn off). Water doesn’t necessarily overflow the pool because of cracks and crevices in the cool deck and the absorption capacity of our clay soils.
Scenario B: After 2-3 days, if the water level in the pool is lower than the bucket, you have a leak or crack in your pool where water is escaping. When the water supply is shut off for a few days, the water loss from a leak in the pool can sometimes be quite dramatic. But you never noticed before because your pool’s autofill was refilling the water that was being lost through that crack or leak in the pool.
In either case, contact a pool service professional to fix the problem and start saving water.
Contact the Gilbert Water Conservation Office if you still have questions about your pool or landscape.