Adventures in Irrigation – Part II

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In my last blog, I talked about how much I’ve learned about doing small repairs to my sprinkler system. I’ve replaced a lot of sprinkler heads over the last several years, learned what a valve box is, and what causes low pressure in a sprinkler head. I even learned what PVC glue is – more on that in another blog. I’m sure you can’t wait for that story!

Oregon is Wet

For those of you who don’t live in Oregon, you may not know that our winters into early spring are wet – very wet. We don’t get the downpours that folks in the Midwest or South experience. Instead, we have an almost constant drizzle, accompanied by mostly gray skies. During this time, doing yard work is pretty pointless unless you want to slog through your yard, turned bog. So about a month ago when we had one of our first dry days in months, I decided to mow my lawn.

Besides all of the weeds that had sprouted up over the winter, I also discovered that the sprinkler valve box in the middle of my lawn was completely flooded. The grass around it was a saturated, muddy mess. Instead of taking my own advice not to panic, I jumped to the worse-case scenario – my system had sprung a leak. In previous blogs, we’ve talked about how to prevent frozen pipes, which includes your sprinkler system. Even though I took the recommended precautions, I was sure that I’d missed something. Thankfully, working at Syncta has its advantages. I have an array of irrigation experts at the ready.

Bring in the Experts

Jeremiah, Syncta’s founder, has become my “go to” guy when it comes to irrigation questions. So once again I reached out to him. He assured me that a leak was unlikely given our mild winter. And the most likely culprit for the flooded valve box was – wait for it – all of our rain. If your yard doesn’t have good drainage or clay soil, the ground can only absorb so much water. And the excess water goes wherever it can, including inside valve boxes. Jeremiah suggested that I make sure my water was turned off, and then scoop out some of the water from the valve box so I could get a better look. Here’s what I found.

Per Jeremiah’s advice, I checked for leaks, but didn’t find any. He then suggested that I check my water meter for signs of a leak. I walked around and around my property and couldn’t find the meter, so I gave up for this round.

A week later, I went back out to the yard, and once again, the valve box was flooded. Again, not using logic, I decided that there must be a leak. But instead of bugging Jeremiah again, I decided to bring in the big guns – Jeremiah’s dad, Ross Church. Ross has his own backflow testing company, Oregon Irrigation. It was while working for his dad that “junior” as Ross calls him, learned all about our industry.

I told Ross what I thought was going on and he gave me some suggestions. But I wasn’t confident that I’d figured out what was wrong. So Ross was kind enough to make a special trip out and check my system. Just like my other valve box, Ross discovered the issue was a worn-out diaphragm (see my previous blog for an exciting photo). Having a spare one handy, Ross replaced the old one and I was good to go. Or so I thought.

A few days went by and the valve box was flooded again. I called Ross and he suggested that I check my water meter for a leak. This time I called the city to find the location of the meter, and it turns out that it’s a block from my house on another street. With the water turned off to my irrigation system, Ross told me to check my meter to see if the dial (or arrow on some meters) moved or fluttered at all. Thankfully, mine didn’t. So that meant no leak!

Poor Drainage = Flooded Yard

What I learned from all of this is that my yard just has really poor drainage, and it gets a lot runoff from the houses above mine. So until I can muster up the strength and find the time to install a French drain, my valve box will continue to flood during the rainy months. Thanks to the expertise of “junior” and “senior” Church, I can rest easy that I don’t have any leaks. Maybe next summer I’ll tackle that French drain. But for now, I’ll just enjoy the sunny days whenever I can.

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