Fixing a Leak in Your Liner
Duane Eaton

(San Antonio, TX)


For some time I had noticed that the water level in my pond was going down at a much faster pace than in the past. The pond was seven years old, and I had always been very pleased with the pace of water loss due to evaporation. But now, it seamed as if I could sit there and watch the water level go down and down and down. I built my pond myself, using a vinyl liner; and had never cemented the rocks either around the pond or the waterfall itself. (The waterfall was built so that all water flowed over and into the pond. Any leakage behind the rocks was covered with the liner that was pulled up and anchored against the back of the waterfall.)

The leak was obviously either from a hole in the vinyl or in the waterfall. The ground behind the waterfall had not been damp, so that didn't seem a likely culprit. I checked all around the base of the back of the waterfall, and saw nothing unusual. This just reaffirmed my original suspicion.

When the pond was built, a piece of gravel had managed to fall down under the liner. Try as I could, I was unable to dislodge the little rascal, and I only managed to make it slide even further down until it settled on the bottom. Of course. All of the rocks had been placed around the pond, and the pond was being filled with water. What, oh what, to do! Well, I chose the easy way out - DO NOTHING!

And, of course, this is where Murphy's Law took over. Sort of like the law about a piece of bread falling to floor and the chances of which side hits the floor depends directly upon which side is buttered. Of course, with the gazillion pieces of small totally smooth gravel around the pond, the piece that fell down had a SHARP edge. And, of course, it managed to settle down with the SHARP edge sticking straight UP. Murphy would have been proud. But, I was going to lay my trust in the strength of the liner that the little rascal would never pop out and cause problems. So when I suddenly started loosing water, I figured that my luck had finally run out and that the sharp point had indeed broken through.

I quickly purchased a repair piece of liner. (These are available at your local water garden store.) Luckily, things had advanced to the point where you could buy repair patches that had a simple, self-adhesive tape on one side. Peel off the back, stick on the hole, and voila - leak fixed. Well, almost that easy. Have to clean the site first.

In order to keep my waterfall looking "prim and proper", I have a gas-powered water pressure machine that I purchased to clean it. (Works most excellent too, I must add.) Oh yeah, Murphy was still laughing over this as that little gravel from seven years ago had fallen into the deep end of the pond, so of course I had to drain the entire pond for this little project! So after the pond was drained, I cranked up the water pressure machine and cleaned around the spot where the gravel was bulging up through the vinyl.

Instructions for the repair patch were to thoroughly clean the area and apply the patch. I must say that 2,500 psi of water is certainly the way to thoroughly clean your liner! (Of course, the nozzle was adjusted for a wide spray to minimize damage to the vinyl itself from such force. Had I used the straight stream of water, it would have cut right through my vinyl.) After very thoroughly cleaning the area, I got down and examined the bulge.

Well, this was suddenly getting very interesting indeed. You see there was NO break in the liner. None whatsoever! I had a definite water loss, yet the spot that I was sure was the cause of the leak seemed in perfect shape. I cleaned it again (in case I had missed a spot), and got down and examined it even closer. Seemed in perfect shape. Well how about that!

After carefully examining the rest of the liner, I could not find anything that seemed an obvious source of a leak. I was confused! With a great amount of indignation I proceeded to fill the pond back up with water. I leave my waterfall on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I then decided not to turn the waterfall on, and wait to see what would happen with the water level. (I also have an air pump with two air stones, so the fish would have enough oxygen in the water.)

After five days of this, guess what happened to the water level? That's right - NOTHING! Sooooooooo, the leak was connected to the plumbing and not to the liner. I be darn. It turned out that a section of pipes had become loose, and was leaking water at that point. Chunks of the vinyl had been eaten through, and water was escaping through those gaps. (I don't care to discuss just what ate through the vinyl, but Michael Jackson's song "Ben" does comes to mind.) The really weird thing is that the ground behind the waterfall seemed to be normal. It was not damp at all. But like so many things, appearances can be deceiving.

The waterfall was completely dismantled, new pipes put in (with LOTS of cement!), and the waterfall was built back up. I even got a little overly excited, and allowed the waterfall to be built completely different than before. Even though I really liked it before, I figured you don't often have a chance for a new look to your waterfall after seven years. And you know what? I absolutely love the new look to it! It's grrrrrrrrrrreat!!!

Anyhoo, the important morale of the story here is that if you have a leak in your pond, do not be so quick as to blame the liner. FIRST, fill it up and turn off your pump and watch the water level for several days. If you continue to lose water, THEN your leak is indeed in the liner. Follow the steps that I did, only actually USE the repair patch. If you turn off the pump and you do not loose any water, then like myself, you will find the leak somewhere in your plumbing. And in that case, maybe you too can take advantage of the situation and end up with a new waterfall!

Hey like the saying goes, "when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade".

Well, I've been typing long enough. I want to go turn on the stereo to new age music, turn on the outside speakers, and go sit on the porch and enjoy the pond and beautiful new waterfall. Oh yeah, need to stop in the kitchen to fix a Jack 'n' Coke first.

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