Water company says water meter box filling with water is due to neighbors watering their lawn?

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Daniellee789

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Hello,

I recently closed on a new construction house, and there have been a lot of plumbing issues. One that has not been able to be resolved is my water meter box filling with water. The plumbing company for warranty came out and couldn't find any leaks. The city said they couldn't find any leaks either the first time. Then the second time they came out, they said the meter box filling with water was due to our neighbors watering their lawn. Even if that's the case, shouldn't the water drain on its own? Even if I empty the meter box out myself, the box is overflowing with water the next day, and the ground around the meter box is soggy. The neighbors don't even have sprinklers, just a garden hose with a sprinkler attachment.

I initially thought that it was a leak coming from somewhere and that the meter was running even when the water was not being used, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. Even if this issue isn't affecting my water usage, I would like to get it resolved soon because this does not seem normal, and I don't know if it will damage anything but I don't want to take that risk.

Who seems more likely to blame for this issue? The plumbing company says it's not their fault, and the city says it's the neighbor watering their lawn and that they can't do anything about it. What am I supposed to do in this situation?
 

WorthFlorida

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All water meter boxes do fill with water and it takes a long dry spell for them to drain. Drainage is dependent on the type of soil. Is the meter happen to be in a low spot? This continuous water issue may just be runoff and probably will stop as the ground conditions changes until the turf gets well established and the ground compacts the runoff should reduce.

Water meters are very sensitive. All digital meters display a blinking arrow and mechanical ones have a small pin wheel rotating when water is flowing. Even with a small leak you'll see movement and apparently it's not the case. Everything under water will do no harm.
 

Reach4

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Even if I empty the meter box out myself, the box is overflowing with water the next day, and the ground around the meter box is soggy. The neighbors don't even have sprinklers, just a garden hose with a sprinkler attachment.
Can you compare the altitude of the neighbor's lawn to the altitude of the rim of the box? A laser level (at night for the cheaper units) can let you measure that. Run the light a several inches above the ground, and measure down to the box or yard.

If your box is not lower than the neighbor's yard, it cannot be the neighbor's watering. Even if the rim of your box is lower, it seems to me that there is likely a leak, as you suspect. A leak before the meter is not as big of a deal to you as a leak after the meter.

So here is an idea for a test: with a post hole digger, put a hole, that is deeper than the top rim of your box, midway between the lot line and the box. Maybe even closer to the lot line. If the water is migrating from the neighbor's lawn, expect that hole to fill. Of course you would need to fill your hole after the test. So if you might want to plant a bush or something later, that would be a good place for the hole.

Another thought: if the leakage is fresh from the water line, the chlorine level would be higher than it would be after the water landed on the neighbor's lawn and seeped over your way. Clearly you would need a high resolution low range chlorine test.

So to recap, I expect there is a leak. I don't know how best to demonstrate that.
 

Tuttles Revenge

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Your neighborhood topography and soil composition might just be saturated all the time. Try digging a hole or several somewhere else on your property that is away from whichever neighbor and see if it fills up with water or even how wet the ground is in general. Even digging a hole near your meter and watching which direction clean flowing water is coming from will tell you a lot about its source.
 

Daniellee789

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All water meter boxes do fill with water and it takes a long dry spell for them to drain. Drainage is dependent on the type of soil. Is the meter happen to be in a low spot? This continuous water issue may just be runoff and probably will stop as the ground conditions changes until the turf gets well established and the ground compacts the runoff should reduce.

Water meters are very sensitive. All digital meters display a blinking arrow and mechanical ones have a small pin wheel rotating when water is flowing. Even with a small leak you'll see movement and apparently it's not the case. Everything under water will do no harm.
My meter does not appear to have an indicator like the ones you've mentioned. There was no spinning arrow or anything on it, so how I determined there likely wasn't a leak was by measuring the actual numbers on the meter. I checked the number, didn't use any water, and checked again the next day. The meter box was full of water again and the numbers were all the same.
 

Daniellee789

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Can you compare the altitude of the neighbor's lawn to the altitude of the rim of the box? A laser level (at night for the cheaper units) can let you measure that. Run the light a several inches above the ground, and measure down to the box or yard.

If your box is not lower than the neighbor's yard, it cannot be the neighbor's watering. Even if the rim of your box is lower, it seems to me that there is likely a leak, as you suspect. A leak before the meter is not as big of a deal to you as a leak after the meter.

So here is an idea for a test: with a post hole digger, put a hole, that is deeper than the top rim of your box, midway between the lot line and the box. Maybe even closer to the lot line. If the water is migrating from the neighbor's lawn, expect that hole to fill. Of course you would need to fill your hole after the test. So if you might want to plant a bush or something later, that would be a good place for the hole.

Another thought: if the leakage is fresh from the water line, the chlorine level would be higher than it would be after the water landed on the neighbor's lawn and seeped over your way. Clearly you would need a high resolution low range chlorine test.

So to recap, I expect there is a leak. I don't know how best to demonstrate that.
The neighbors from what I can see aren't even watering their front lawn, they have the sprinkler attachment on the side, and the meter box is not lower than any of the ground surrounding it. The thing is, our meter boxes are right next to each other and theirs isn't filling up with water so I think their explanation makes no sense. As for a leak, I checked the meter for several days before I moved in and checked the numbers on the meter. I drained the meter and checked the numbers. Then checked a day or two later and found that the meter box would be full of water again, but the numbers on the meter would stay the same.

Thank you for your ideas, I'll see about giving them a try!
 

Daniellee789

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Your neighborhood topography and soil composition might just be saturated all the time. Try digging a hole or several somewhere else on your property that is away from whichever neighbor and see if it fills up with water or even how wet the ground is in general. Even digging a hole near your meter and watching which direction clean flowing water is coming from will tell you a lot about its source.
Our backyard is not flat and there is a section where the water seems to stand for a bit after it rains, so maybe that's the issue? Our neighbor's box is next to mine and theirs never fills with water. The plumbers dug holes and said they couldn't find any leak but I will try digging some holes and see if they fill up with water too.
 

Tuttles Revenge

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Then checked a day or two later and found that the meter box would be full of water again, but the numbers on the meter would stay the same.
I just recall having 1 leak on a meter set before the meter connection that the water department said didn't exist. The meter would never register the leak because it was a pinched gasket before the meter.

How close are the 2 meter boxes? Seems odd that 1 would fill but the other doesn't. If its a water line that is leaking it will of course run continuously and fill up any voids with water.
 

Daniellee789

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I just recall having 1 leak on a meter set before the meter connection that the water department said didn't exist. The meter would never register the leak because it was a pinched gasket before the meter.

How close are the 2 meter boxes? Seems odd that 1 would fill but the other doesn't. If its a water line that is leaking it will of course run continuously and fill up any voids with water.
They are pretty close to each other. I'm not very good with distances, but I would say like maybe a foot ~ a few feet? Our houses are pretty close to each other as well.

I guess I would have to go after the water company then. They said they would send someone again, which would be the 4th time someone was sent out. Each time they said they would leave something on the door to indicate someone was there, but they never do. Last time, customer service just told me that the tech found no leaks. I contact them again, and now they're saying the tech said it was because the neighbors were watering their lawn.
 

WorthFlorida

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....... I contact them again, and now they're saying the tech said it was because the neighbors were watering their lawn........
Water not only flows by gravity also the path of least resistance under pressure. A leak will follow the exterior of a pipe between the pipe and the soil. I have had my share of finding leaks here in Florida. On at least four occasions from the meter to the house and plenty of irrigation leaks. One time at my home, my son's home and a friend or two. We have PVC pipe from the meter to the house so it's easy for them to break or crack especially from tree roots as the root lift the soil and couplings will pull apart.

Though you should not have to do this but sometimes to get things solved you have to prove it. What you'll need to do is dig around the meter box and follow the pipe from the city. A leaky pipe you'll see a steady stream of water and the hole will fill with water as you look at it. I would even pull up the meter box and dig under the meter looking for a leak. A usual spot is the nipple connection at the meter. If anyone from the water company never dug around the meter, they didn't do their job.

For me, one time the city side of the water meter connection was leaking. It was soon after the meter was changed to smart wireless meter and the nipple had cracked at the meter. Sometimes it is by a vehicles driving over or near it. On new construction sites, trunks are driving all over the place to get closer to the work site. If the meter is not staked with a 2x4, anything can happen.

Three years ago the town home across the street, right after it had a fire, I saw water coming up on the sidewalk and it looked like the fire hydrant was leaking underground. The water company found it was an irrigation pipe buried about three feet. I should have taken a picture. It was a 2" main that was always under pressure from the reclaim water system we have. This was a feed pipe for the community irrigation system on the HOA side of the meter.
 

Jeff H Young

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Water company dosent often care if it leaks . but it should be very easy to tell if leak is on your side of meter right? just look at meter if its spins and your not using water youve got a leak. If it dosent spin leak is not yours
Id bail the water out and check again perhaps dig a hole as mentioned , no one going to do this my guess they point a finger or its entirely possible its neighbors irrigation the plumbing company or builder dosent need to diagnose if its not your leak but no one really wants to work for free sadly so its somewhate understandable
 
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