How to know if your pool is leaking (and costing you money)

All pools lose water.  Evaporation steals considerable water from your pool (especially if you don’t have – and use – a pool cover of some sort).  Swimming in the pool causes water loss due to splashing and wet swimsuits frequently leaving the pool.  Even skimming the pool regularly causes a certain amount of water loss.

Water Loss = Chemical Loss (Which = Money Lost)

Of course, water loss, in and of itself, isn’t a huge problem.  But, any water loss also means chemical loss, and that means money that is leaking or evaporating away.  A pool cover can help a great deal with the evaporation issue, but if some of your water loss is due to a leak, you’ve got to find it and fix it.

But, how do you know if your water loss is being exacerbated by a leak in the plumbing or the pool itself?  How would you know unless there is an obvious and visible crack or tear somewhere?

Are You Losing 1,000 Gallons Per Day ?

Probably not, but it’s certainly is possible.  Even just a pin hole sized leak in the average pool could result in a loss of as much as 1,000 gallons of water IN A SINGLE DAY, depending upon where the leak is.  That’s an amazing amount of water (and costly chemicals).  It pays to find it quickly.

Of course, if you lost that much water in a day, you could be relatively assured it’s not due to evaporation.  Thus, you probably don’t need to do this test to determine if you’ve got a leak. However, if you ARE losing water, but it’s not quite that significant, there’s still a possibility you’ve got a leak. And, if you do, you need to find it.

But, you don’t want to waste your time looking for a leak that doesn’t exist – or, worse yet, PAYING some company to find a leak that isn’t there.  So, how do you know if you actually have a leak that’s worth searching for?

ENTER: The Sunken Bucket Test

Well, as it turns out, there’s a really simple and free way to know within a couple of days whether your water loss is potentially caused by a hidden leak.  All you need is a 5 gallon bucket (without a handle) or a really large bowl and a roll of duct tape or electrical tape.

First, place a piece of tape so that the BOTTOM edge of it is an inch or two from the top of the bowl/bucket.  Then fill the container with POOL water till it’s right up to the bottom of that piece of tape.  Then, turn off your pool pump and allow the water in the pool to become completely still.  Mark the water line on the inside of the pool with another piece of tape (placing the BOTTOM edge of the tape right down to the surface of the water).

Now, somehow place the bucket down into the water so that only an inch or so of the container extends above the surface of the water.  The bucket can be floating or it can be sitting on a step, but, either way, you want as much of the water IN the bowl to be BELOW the surface of the pool water as possible.

This will make sure that the pool water IN the container remains similar temperature to the pool water OUTSIDE the container so that evaporation rates will not be affected. In addition, if the surface of the water INSIDE the bowl is at the same (or very similar) height to the water level OUTSIDE of the bowl, any breeze passing over the pool will be passing similarly over the water in the bowl.

You’ll likely want to secure the bucket in some way so that it won’t float away and be unreachable when you reach the end of the test and want to measure your water lines.

Then, Simply Wait …

Turn the pump back on and run everything as you normally would for a day or two (but with nobody swimming in or disturbing the pool).  Once the test is complete, turn off the pump again and measure with a tape measure or ruler the distance between the bottom edge of the tape and the current water level of the pool and the bowl.

Now, you are simply going to compare those two values.  If those values are the same, then all of your water loss is pretty much due to evaporation.  However, if the measurement of water loss that you calculated for the pool is greater than that within the bucket/bowl, you know that you have a leak.

Check Out The Video Below

The video below shows a slightly different variation on how to do the bucket test. Both methods will achieve the same end result.  You may find that one works better for or makes more sense to you.  The video also provides a few tips toward the end to make sure that you don’t skew the results of the test.

The Bucket Test
Check out the YouTube Video above and then come back for a few more details

Calculating Actual Water Loss Due to Leakage

The “Sunken Bucket Test” can also tell you just how much water you’re losing over a given time-frame.  For instance, if the measurement in the bowl was 1/4″ and the measurement in the pool was 1 1/4″, and you ran the test for 24 hours, then you know you lost 1″ inch of water (1 1/4″ – 1/4″) due to leakage in a day.

An inch of water lost in a 24′ round pool would amount to about 38 cubic feet or about 280 gallons of water.  That’s alot of water (and chemicals), both of which cost money to replenish.  Fix the leak and all that water (and the dissolved chemicals) stay in the pool instead of leaking out each and every day.

If You Want to Strain Your Brain …

If you want to calculate this yourself, calculate the surface area of your pool.  If it’s rectangular or square, simply multiply length of the pool times its width.  If circular, measure the full length across the pool (for instance 24 feet) – then divide that number by two (24 / 2 = 12), multiply the answer by itself (12 x 12 = 144) and then multiply that value by 3.14 (144 x 3.14 = 452 square feet).

Now, whatever value you calculated for the surface area above, take that number and divide it by 12 (452 / 12 = 37.67).  Whatever your answer, multiply it by the number of inches of loss due to leakage that you measured earlier.  In our example case above  it was one inch, so 37.67 x 1 = 37.67 cubic feet of water loss.

Lastly, multiply your cubit feet calculation from above by 7.5 (that’s about how many gallons there are in a cubit foot).  In our case, it would have been 37.67 x 7.5 = 282.525 gallons.

Of course, if you’re a math nerd, you already had that calculated 5 minutes ago.  But, for those that are a bit “math challenged”, hopefully you can weed through the above instructions and actually get a number that makes sense.

So, if you’ve been noticing the water levels in your pool dropping more quickly than you think they should, it might be worth your time to try this simple test and see if the water loss is due to leakage.

Disclaimer: Pool ownership and maintenance is very complicated, and we know every situation is unique. While we’ve done our best to cover the best practices here, we encourage you to reach out to ProTuff directly at with any specific questions you may have.

The Sunken Bucket Pool Leak Test
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