Let’s face it, losing water in your water feature is not the most ideal scenario. If your water feature empties out, your pump could seize up, or worse your fish and wildlife could suffer from lack of water.
Checking Your Pond for Leaks
Suspect your losing water? How much if so? How much is too much? These are questions we often receive from our clients, especially during the warmer months. Although more often than not, it’s due to evaporation. Sometimes there truly is a leak though, and when there is – it pays to know your water feature and how to go about handling an event such as a leak. Is your water feature commercial or residential? This is also an important question as both present different risks and costs to repair. Also, how old is your pond? Is the rubber liner exposed to the sun or covered by cement? Liners older than 10 years old are often not patch-able due to the lack of bonding between a patch and the aged liner.
Fill with Water, and Mark the Water Level
Make sure to add dechlore if you are adding water to a koi pond or aquarium with fish or wildlife. Tap-water is deadly when not treated accordingly. We’ve had people lose fish due to not treating the water when storing them during pond construction. The same applies to adding water to check levels. When you have filled your water feature to a level you can remember, turn the water off and also turn the pumps off for 24 hours. (Buy an aerator if you have large amounts of fish) this will tell you if the basin is losing water, or if the equipment or waterfall is the culprit. After 24 hours has passed, check the water level, if it is where you left it (within 1/4 inch even) then you know the water loss is occurring in the waterfall or equipment area. If you lost 1/4″+ of water, you might have a leak in the main basin, if so – call a professional company to store your koi fish and evaluate the leak, we recommend letting the pond drop down as far as it’ll go if it’s in the main basin as this will tell you where the leak is.
“Rubber liners over 10 must be replaced, patches won’t bond correctly with an old brittle liner”
Determining The Leak in a Waterfall or Plumbing
We’re assuming you did the initial draw-down test. Refilling your pond and turning the equipment off for 24 hours, and you didn’t lose water correct? If so, you then test any waterfalls/ areas the water is returning from. Believe it or not, we often see waterfalls as the primary culprit to leaks, secondary to old liners exposed to the sun. The method of testing a waterfall for a leak is quite simple, all it requires is a 2-3″ PVC pipe (flexible or not, your call) and a fitting that’ll screw into your filter box up-flow filter. If you remove the filtration media and stuck your hand down into the filter box, you can feel a hole with threads, you need to screw a 2-3″ PVC pipe (usually 2″) to this to bypass the waterfall. (Not up for it? Call a professional water feature service company near you!) and run this for 24 hours (with a full-pond you can remember) If you don’t lose water, you’ll know the waterfall is the culprit and you can start your rebuild there.
Testing Pond Equipment for Leaks
Testing your pond equipment is a little more difficult than testing your basin and water fall for leaks. We suggest testing the first two for leaks, if you are sure its the equipment – call a company to help you fix it vs do it yourself. The way we test our plumbing is typically “pressure testing” with a pressure valve and compressed air, the pressure will test us if the filtration is losing air somewhere or is tight enough to handle the pressure exerted during operation.
Cement vs Rubber Ponds
We hear it all the time “my rubber pond is leaking” and unfortunately, most of these rubber liners are older than 10 years, costing the client a partial rebuild which can run upwards of $4,000-$10,000 depending on the size of the pond. Yes cement is more expensive, but it protects the rubber liner underneath for much longer than that of an exposed liner. We guesstimate (based on our experience) a rubber liner will get an average of 10+/- years, depending on the vegetation near by, sun exposure, and how often people are walking in the pond. A cement pond will usually get an average of 20+/- years, and won’t be as succeptable to issues from vegetation, walking around in, or sun exposure, plus cement ponds are easier to reseal (as seen in the video above) cement ponds are resealed vs replaced entirely like rubber lined ponds.
We suggest to take into consideration the time you would like to own a pond before you build it, i.e. 10 years – expect to tear it out or replace, or life – expect to have a pond for life, similar to that of a pool or spa.