Water Problems: Episode Four

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In Episode Three, my friends who are homesteaders had offered to come and help me find the trouble in my water line. Still, since they live almost two hours away, it was a while before they could get here. Meanwhile I needed to do some more sleuthing and see if I could figure out the path of the water line to my house. A good place to start, I thought, would be to dig up where the line goes into the holding tank outside the house, and see where it’s coming from. But I had to juggle this with planting and working on poultry housing, so it got put off for a while.

At one point there was so much rain I had lots of tap water for about a week. I even had enough for a shower and no-rinse shampoo! Still, I could never keep up with my dishes. I would wash what I could every day, but the counter was continually cluttered with things waiting their turn!

Up to that point I had no idea where the water line was on my property – I had meant to dig up the line between the holding tank and the house, thinking maybe it went through the basement and out the other side, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Then one day I was digging trenches to plant potatoes when I found the end of one trench filled with water. I looked up and saw that the water-filled hole was just about in line with the holding tank, up the hill, where my water comes in from the spring.

After finishing half a row of potatoes, I headed up to the holding tank and started digging. The hole I was digging filled with water, but that didn’t prove anything because there’s also been standing water in my backyard uphill from there, which comes down out of the holler.

Still, I kept digging down until I reached the pipe that brings the water into the tank – about 26 inches from the top. By the time I got finished I was covered with mud! I discovered the input pipe was attached at right angles to another pipe that was going down the hill toward my garden. I still doubted this pipe was my water line, since it would be carrying the water uphill, but my hunch was that the broken pipe was somewhere in this vicinity.

I conveyed this information to my friends Lynn and Todd, who had offered to help me locate and fix the problem, and they came over one afternoon with an air compressor. Todd had suggested that by blowing air back through the line we might find it spurting up somewhere, or at least hear a hissing sound. This had seemed like a daunting task if the problem could be anywhere in the 200 feet or so that was buried, but as it turned out, we quickly hit gold.

Just after the air got going I decided to walk down the yard and go check on the chickens. As I passed my potato patch – voilà! A mini-geyser was spouting from the mud near where I was planting. So Todd got busy digging while Lynn and I went to get some tools, and shortly Todd had located the broken line, fashioned a patch out of some spare pipe I had lying around, and clamped it on. Soon there was water running into my tank!

Todd said the line had obviously been cut by a tool, which didn’t surprise me considering that I had done a considerable amount of digging there, preparing my potato bed. In fact, later I remembered that while broadforking it a month or so ago, I had a feeling I was pulling on something, then heard a sucking sound and saw a lot of water in the bed. At the time I assumed it was a drainage pipe I had hit.

It was reassuring to know it was my own digging that damaged the line, and not freezing weather. So I was right after all – that line is going to be pretty reliable if it survived the sub-zero temperatures this winter. And if I hit any more water digging in my garden and my water supply then stops, I’ll know what happened. In fact, I now may even have learned how to fix it myself!

For more on the water problems:

Water Problems: Episode One

Water Problems: Episode Two

Water Problems: Episode Three