It's not surprising to see standing water and puddles after a rainstorm, but you may need emergency help if you notice water welling up on a dry day. However, a sudden sodden area in the backyard could be caused by a leaking water pipe that a plumber must fix, or it could be a sign of serious septic system problems. Figure out which type of emergency assistance you need by determining the most likely cause of your soggy soil.
If it's the septic system flooding your yard rather than a damaged water main or other buried pipe, you'll notice some obvious signs inside the house too. Watch for
- Slow drainage in your toilets, sinks, and other drains
- Water and raw sewage backing up into the drains, toilets, and other appliances
- Unpleasant odors rising up from the drains
- Loud gurgling and bubbling noises as water drains out of a sink or tub.
When any of these indoor signs are accompanying your wet yard, you should call a septic service technician first. If everything's working just fine inside the house, keeping checking for other signs instead of immediately assuming it's a plumbing problem.
Odors are one of the clearest signs you're dealing with sewage and not fresh water. The moisture from water mains is clean and odorless, but a leaking tank puts off an obvious smell of waste. It's not healthy to be in contact with the soggy part of your yard when there's standing raw sewage, so consider recruiting a family member to fan the air towards you from the opposite end of the wet area so you can get a whiff of what's going on without getting too close. However, you can likely smell the odor from anywhere in the yard once your septic tank is backing up so bad that there's water standing on the surface of the soil.
Try to get a good view of the puddles, without stepping in them, to check the color. Fresh water from a broken pipe can look obviously clear, or it might becomes muddy and red or brown as it bubbles up through the soil and mixes with mud. If you notice a murky and dark gray color like a thunderstorm cloud or even pitch black water, you're most likely facing a septic problem instead. Don't try to take a sample to see the color more clearly. It's safer to let an emergency plumber handle the water testing if you can't determine the color from a distance.
Perhaps the easiest-to-monitor indicator of a leaking water line involves the meter tracking your usage. Shut off the main water connection where it comes into the house, then watch the meter for a few minutes to see if it's still moving at all. You can also leave the water off for a few hours and check regularly to catch the slowest and smallest leaks. If your water meter is locked by your local utility service, call them to help you check the meter. They can also help diagnose the problem, usually for free, so you don't have to spend money until you're sure you need an emergency plumber.
Finally, don't forget about shutting off all those sprinklers, drip lines, and other irrigation tools you might have installed. These devices are easily forgotten for years or decades until they break and turn a grassy backyard into a small pond. If disconnecting the irrigation equipment causes the spot to start drying up within a day, you can hire a plumber to fix the problem without having to call for emergency help.
For more help diagnosing a wet yard, contact a company like Plumb Pros Plumbing Heating & Drains.