In the pipeline - DIY Plumbing Tip #13 Leak Detection - Water Meters & Fire Service Pipes

July 24 2014

​Knowing who is responsible for maintenance of water pipes and water meters at both domestic and commercial properties can be confusing at times. A general guide to who is responsible is as follows.

* The water meter and associated valves is usually the responsibility of the water authority to maintain.

* Fire service pipe work Is the responsibility of the individual lot owner or tenant from the sluice valve in the street onwards.

NB: There are exceptions and we suggest that when dealing with water leaks in Metropolitan Melbourne you should contact your local water authority, City West Water, Yarra Valley Water or South-East Water.

In our busy plumbing business our emergency plumbers attend to numerous water leaks, burst water pipes et cetera.. In commercial properties with fire service pipe work, water leaks can occur any where from the sluice valve( the main shut off tap in the street) to the hydrants or fire hose reels inside the property. It is important to clarify that most water authorities are responsible for the maintenance of domestic water pipes from the water main in the street to the water meter inside the property line but not the fire service pipework. 

Tips for maintaining fire service pipe work and water meters.

~Always ensure that the shut-off valves are accessible and well maintained.

~If a below ground water leak occurs it is important to pinpoint the exact area to avoid unnecessary excavation and reinstatement costs.

~Do not replace or remove water meters, these are owned and maintained by the water authorities.

~Ensure that new landscape does not obstruct or hide shut-off valves.

~If you suspect a water leak, pressure test the pipework to confirm or eliminate the presence of a leak.

~If in doubt, engage a specialist emergency plumber or leak detection expert.

Case Study:

1. We recently attended a large factory complex in Noble Park with the report of $20,000 spike in the water account for this property. Upon arrival our emergency plumber could not find any visible signs of a water leak apart from the fact that one of the main water meters at this complex was constantly ticking over. We called in our leak detection specialist, who successfully narrowed the search area down to a small diameter copper water pipe which had burst. The water from this burst water pipe had been running into the stormwater drainage system, hence no visible signs of the water leak at ground level.As well as the burst domestic water pipe we also found a burst fire service pipe at the property. Of interest our client has informed us that they will be making a claim through their owners Corporation insurance for the additional water costs during the period of the leak.

2. One of our general maintenance plumbers was working on clearing blocked drains in Melbourne and found that water was constantly flowing into the sewer drains. He checked the area where the water entry was occurring and could hear a hissing sound below a concrete slab courtyard. We informed the property manager and were authorised to find and fix burst water pipe. When the concrete slab was excavated we found a huge cavity underneath which had been washed away by the pressure of the leak coming out of the fire service. Due to the risk involved comprehensive site specific risk assessment was undertaken and we called in another plumber who was working locally in Melbourne at the time to assist with the repair of this burst. As the burst had occurred in a fire service pipe There was no spike in the water consumption bill to alarm our client to this ongoing significant leak.

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