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Is My Pool Leaking?  Use the Bucket Test

Loss of pool water is normal, but if your water bill has gone up, your pool might have a leak. Normal water loss includes splash-out and evaporation, which varies with water temperature, humidity, wind and barometric pressure. But, do you add water on a continuous basis? If you have autofill, has your water bill increased? If so, you can test to see if your pool has a leak in three steps:

  • Determine if your pool is leaking.
  • Calculate the amount of water loss.
  • Identify the likely culprit.

Is my pool leaking?

The easiest method to test for a pool leak is the Bucket Test. Get a 5-gallon bucket and follow these directions, preferably on a day without rain:

  1. Bring the pool water to its normal level.
  2. Place a bucket on one of your steps and fill it with water, so that the level in the bucket matches the pool level.
  3. Mark the water level both inside and outside the bucket with a black marker.
  4. Turn off your pump and your automatic water fill, if any. Wait 24 hours.
  5. After 24 hours, mark the new level of the water inside the bucket with a red marker. Also mark the level of the pool water on the outside of the bucket with a red marker.
  6. Now, compare the marks. If the drop from black to red is greater on the outside of the bucket than the inside of the bucket, then you have a leak.

How many gallons of water did I lose from the leak?

Simple enough—let’s calculate your water loss. Measure the inside drop of the water level in inches against the outside drop and subtract the inside from the outside. That shows you the water loss from leakage, which you can determine as follows:

Water Loss from Leakage

Top surface area (TSA) of your pool (length times width)

X  Drop in inches

X .62

=Water loss in gallons per day

The .62 factor takes the number of gallons per cubic foot (7.48) and divides it by 12 to account for cubic feet.

For example, if you have a pool that is 20 feet by 40 feet and the inside bucket level dropped 1 inch and the outside bucket level dropped 3 inches, then you lost 992 gallons from a leak:

800 TSA  x (3-1) inches  x .62 factor = 992 gallons per day

If you use your pool for 20 weeks, as we tend to do in Iowa, then you lost 138,880 gallons per pool year. If the average cost of 1,000 gallons of water is $7.50, then the cost of water leakage amounts to $1,042! Wow! That’s a lot of water and money going to waste!

Where and what is the likely suspect for the leak?

To address this question, you need to do another bucket test for the following 24 hours, but this time with the pump on for circulation. With the pump on, you can determine the water loss as you did above and the likely suspected area as follows:

  • Water loss pump on > Water loss pump off = Possible return (pressure side) plumbing leak
  • Water loss pump on < Water loss pump off = Possible skimmer (suction side) or main drain plumbing leak
  • Water loss pump on = Water loss pump off = Possible shell or fittings leak

A word of caution: The bucket tests are done on two different days and are therefore subject to different environmental conditions, however, the purpose is to get an indication of the likely or suspect area for a leak. Providing this information to your Pool Tech Specialist will help them more efficiently determine the problem area through various methods, using specialized pressure testing and leak detection equipment.

Give us a call if you suspect a leak!