Spring is in full swing and you notice your fish are swimming around the pond more while the water lilies are sprouting leaves. This time of year is such an exciting season for water gardeners! You might start to notice a slight drop in water level and wonder if you’re losing some water due to evaporation or whether you have a leak in your pond after experiencing a harsh winter. Understanding the basic principles of identifying and fixing leaks will help you repair the problem quickly and efficiently.
Evaporating Pond Water
First, let’s have a look at what evaporation is and what it isn’t. Evaporation is caused by water turning into a vapor and escaping from your pond. The amount of water loss will vary according to the region of the country and the time of year. Ponds that are located in areas of the country with moderate temperatures and high humidity can expect to see 1 to 1 ½ inches of water loss per week during the spring and summer. Most of this evaporation should be replaced naturally by rain. However, if you live in an area with high temperatures and low humidity, it’s possible to see 3 inches or more of evaporation in a week.
The quantity and size of your waterfall(s) also affects the amount of water that is lost. Regardless of the climate, a 4’x 6’pond with a 20-foot stream and 5 feet of cascading waterfalls may lose as much as 2 inches or more every day! Why? Splashing and moving water has greater exposure to additional evaporation than does the still water in the pond. If that same pond was 16′ x 21′, you’d probably never even notice the additional evaporation because it’s a larger pond.
Be advised, evaporation is not filling your pond up all the way one evening, and waking up the next morning to find the water six inches lower. That’s a leak! If your pond is experiencing a loss of water at a more rapid rate than normal evaporation, you likely have a leak and we’re here to help you find it.
Low Pond Edges
Look for any low edges around your pond. Settling at the pond’s edge is the most common cause of a leak, especially if you own a new pond. Typically, the low edges are found around the stream and waterfall where settling may have occurred after a few rainfalls. These areas are usually built up during the construction of the pond using the soil from the excavation, and are prone to some settling.
Your first line of defense is to carefully inspect the edges of not only your stream and waterfall, but also the perimeter of the pond. As the dirt around the stream or waterfall settles, it can create low spots that may cause water to escape over the edge of the liner. Keep your eyes peeled for wet mulch or gravel, or muddy areas around the perimeter of your pond – this is a dead giveaway that you have a leak. If you find a spot that’s leaking, all you have to do is lift the liner up and push some soil under it in order to raise the edge. Bingo – leak fixed!
Another possibility is that water is splashing out of your stream. To fix a “splash leak,” all you have to do is adjust a few of the rocks under and around your waterfall. This contains or redirects the splash and effectively eliminates your splash leak problem without a lot of effort on your part.
Obstructions in the Stream and Waterfalls
Make a visual assessment of your stream or waterfall. Rocks and excessive plant or algae growth inside the stream, or even in your biological filter, can restrict the flow of water and divert it over the edge of the liner. Plants and algae should be maintained by trimming them back in order to let the water pass freely. If you don’t like pulling string algae out by hand, apply EcoBlast Contact Granular Algaecide to the affected areas.
If you’ve done all of the above and your pond is still showing signs of a leak, don’t panic! You just need to do a little more investigating. Start by shutting your pump off for a day so you can determine the approximate location of the leak.
- Make sure the pond is filled to the appropriate level.
- Unplug the pump.
- Let the pond sit for 24 hours.
- If the water level drops, then you know the leak is in the pond.
When the Water Drops
- To find out where the leak is occurring, allow the water level to continue to drop. The level where the water stops dropping is the level where the leak is located.
- Concentrate your search around the perimeter of the pond at the level that the water has stopped dropping.
At this point, you may want to consider calling in a pond professional to locate and repair the leak, but you can do it yourself if you enjoy working in your pond:
- Begin removing any rocks around the perimeter of the pond at the level where the water stopped and check for evidence of a puncture or hole in the liner.
- When you find the hole, cover it with a self-adhesive EPDM Liner Patch.
- Now you can replace the rocks, fill the pond back to the top, and enjoy!
Steady and Level
If after turning off your pump for 24 hours you find the water level remains the same, then it is safe to assume that that the leak is not inside your pond. Your next step is to check the pipe, the plumbing fittings, and the pump connections for leaks.
Another possible culprit is the faceplate of your skimmer, if you have one. If the water level stopped dropping above the bottom of the faceplate, you should investigate the skimmer. It may not have sealed correctly.
If the Leak Is in the Skimmer …
- Investigate the skimmer faceplate without disassembling it.
- Simply move a few rocks around the front of the skimmer and slide your hand behind the liner, feeling for wet soil around the opening of the skimmer. If the soil is saturated, then the faceplate may have not been installed properly and might be the source of the leak.
- Remove the faceplate, clean all of the old silicone off the liner, and refer back to the skimmer instruction manual on proper procedures for sealing the skimmer faceplate to the skimmer.
Finding and fixing your leak doesn’t need to be a frustrating, complicated process. Start with the most obvious possibility (low edges) and work through our list to find your leak and repair your pond. You’ll soon be back to watching your friendly fish swim about the growing water lilies.