Under normal conditions, locating a leak in a swimming pool is pretty simple. A specialist runs several tests, pinpointing the precise location of water loss.

But conditions here were anything but normal. I’m a leak detection specialist with more than 20 years of experience. I’ve seen a variety of challenging situations, but nothing quite like this.

This commercial pool was losing approximately 20,000 to 40,000 gallons a day. It was apparent that the skimmer and return lines were leaking in multiple places. Normally, I’d be able to use a whole arsenal of sophisticated leak detection equipment to zero in on the problem spots, but numerous factors played against me.

Here are three takeaways that apply to multiple pool-operation scenarios.

The Lessons

1. Make do. In my case, that meant going back to the basics. The design of the return fittings prevented me from running a small camera or a microphone through the pipes. Additionally, due to the pump room being below grade I was unable to access the pipe from that location to utilize either of those methods while maintaining enough water in the pipe for the inspection (a standpipe was also not possible due to the design). Pumping helium into the pipes and using a gas sniffer was also out of the question due to the volume needed to fill the hundreds of cubic feet of pipe. So, I had to rely on sound. I pressurized the lines and, with the help of a listening device, scanned the ground for telltale gurgling sounds. However, I encountered yet another problem: I kept getting interference from a nearby radio tower. I had to really focus and listen very carefully as some sections of the pipes were three feet below ground, making sounds extremely faint. I also found that I could use my body to block the airwaves by keeping myself between the tower and the listening device.

2. Don’t give up. Through this admittedly old-school method, old-fashioned problem solving and sheer determination, I was able to locate the leaks. Whatever problem your facility faces can be overcome with smarts and grit.

3. Bring in a pro. What makes our industry unique is we have professionals who specialize in various facets of swimming pools – from liners to hydraulics. I was brought in because my sole focus is leak detection. If you encounter a particular challenge, don’t hire a generalist. Get someone with a proven track record of handling those issues.