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How to identify water leaks in pressurised freshwater systems

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What is the issue?
Pressurised water systems load up freshwater pipes and joints. Often small leaks can develop typically at joints. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to detect where these leaks are.

Why address this?
Water is a critical resource on a yacht and every drop needs to be completely secure. A failing joint could further deteriorate and fail entirely. If this were to happen when the crew are actively engaged, or the engine is running so as to mask the water pump’s noise, the vessels entire freshwater tank could be pumped out without the crew noticing.

How to address this?
Be prepared and have a pack of green paper hand towels available. When you hear the water pressure pump clicking in and out, that it is a tell-tale sign, and you know you have to search the system for leaks.

Green Paper Hand Towels
Photo: Greatsupplies.co.uk
If you cannot detect the source, thoroughly dry all the system's extended pipes and joints. Then wrap all the joints tightly with strips of the paper towels and leave them in place for some time. The paper will turn black and degrade should they absorb any water. After a period of time inspect each wrapping to detect paper damage and joint failure.

If no joints have failed and you see no paper degradation wrap the towels around the lower sections of pipes. Target pipes near hatches or around the engine as these are often subject to chafe etc. Again keep monitoring until you find the leak. It also recommended that you wrap any new joints you have recently installed and monitor them for a period of time from the outset to ensure they are sound.

This is a simple low-cost technique to identify system leaks. If you do not have a pack of green paper hand towels available just use toilet paper, it falls apart when it absorbs water making it plain to see where the leak is.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession. Header image with thanks to Sailing La Vagabonde.
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