Finding an underground water pipe

Can anyone give me suggest how I can find an underground water pipe. The farmer ( the previous owner) had the water turned off in the house about 40 years ago and cannot remember where. It runs from the barn to the house but this is a big area. I have dug around outside the house where I think it should come out but we hit cobbles which I think were there before the house had water. I did think you i could hire a cat scanner which says it can locate pipes but HSS hire say it won't work! Has any one tried dowsing(not sure how to spell it).

Well done!

Just to let you know, we have had the earth moved away from the front of the house and we have found the tap for turning on the water into our house. It was where the dowsing was indicating!! Now all we need is veola to turn it on, I agree it may have leeks and we may need a new one we will have to wait and see.


We tried dowsing, it seemed to work for Mike but not for me! We are not great believers in things like this so I made him close his eyes as I wondered if he was doing something sub consciously, when he did that it didn't work or just a bit but he probably knew roughly where he was walking and where the pipe probably runs. We have decided to get a small digger to scrape off the surface earth to see if this uncovers anything, if not we will run another pipe from the meter in the barn. I agree the pipe if we ever find it could have leaks. Many thanks for your suggestions I will let you know if we find the pipe and if it was where we dowsed!

Moving on from water but a similar theme. This is part of an e-mail to a previous owner of our property.

"All I need is a clue as to where a possible junction box may be as it looks like an old 3 phase cable with the cloth wrapping leaves the pump/light control box in the utility room and goes into the wall there. At the other end are the two pieces of white pvc covered 13/15 amp UK twin core and earth. One feeds to the pump socket and the other to a junction box where the feed to the triple standard lamp in the BBQ area comes from in the flexible conduit.
These pvc cables disappear under the 'Pool Maid' box and it looks like into the ground but it is impossible to see where they go to without taking that right out.
We need the time team out here with their geophizz kit to track it down.
All the best from a very frustrated Ian."

As there is copper wire involved will a metal detector find the cable run? If the consensus is yes, does anyone know where can I beg, borrow or "steal" one from?

I used to be able to track pipes with bent up metal coat hangers and have salvaged a couple but have not had the time to cut up and bend to try again. Hazel twigs are supposed to be the best. Try Googeling Dowsing and see what pops up.

A dowser would not need the water to be running to find the pipe. But unless it is a metal pipe, a metal detector won't work. Plastic pipes have been used on farms for many decades.

If you know where your meter is and you know where the pipe enters the house, the tap must be somewhere between the two. Normally the installer will take the most direct route unless there is an obstruction that makes this impossible. I would start looking first near the meter. If it isn't there, look near the house.

If it all proves too difficult, it might just be easier to get someone to lay a new pipe. That, at least, will give you a guarantee of many years of leak-free service.

Many thanks for all your suggestions, we have bought all the barns as well as the house so I know the farmer doesn't use it. We do know where it comes into the property and we thought that was where it should be turned on but when the farmer came to visit, he said it runs from this junction/ stopcock thingy to the barn (that is where the meter is and then runs into the house from there. There isn't a meter in the house so I suppose he must be right. The water is working in the barn so as far as the water board is concerned we are connected. I did think about a metal detector but HSS hire said they only work up to half a metre. I will give dowsing a go but the water will not be running if it's turned off. I think we will have to start digging! Thank you for your kind offer Sandra we will have ago ourselves first.

Thank you for all your suggestions

In Wales, I had a subsidiary supply that passed across the fields of the farmer who originally owned our house. Our stopcock was in his yard. His water consumption was calculated by deducting our meter readings from his.

Not an ideal situation, but I wasn't prepared to pay the Water Board to dig up half a mile of road to have an independent supply. Perhaps the situation is similar in this case?

You are frankly wasting time and money. You need to find where the water company's spur is to your property. That's the water company's job. They will have a stopcock which isolates your property and from what it sounds like your farmer. Get the water company to find where the water comes from their main. Then run your own pipe with the approval of the water company from a point which departs from the main to your own property via a water meter belonging and installed by your water company. That way you will be assured that your neighbours aren't benefiting from water you have paid for. You will also be assured that your water is being drawn through approved safe pipeing instead of some lash up the farmer arranged years ago.It may sound like a significant expense but you need to be assured of a safe and secure source of water.

A friend of mine had an not dissimilar problem in the outskirts of Edinburgh. The absence of a secure lead free supply to a big country house was a major problem.

Dowsing works, I use two brazing rods and hold a disc in one hand , different colour according to depth of pipe or water flow. An elephant's foot won't work as there is no flow. I would ask your local water company to reconnect you, then it's their problem! Be sure to replace all metal pipe or you will always have slightly rusty water.


Only works if the water is flowing, so very useful for finding leaks. But this is a case where the water has been turned off. Needs a dowser or high-tech equivalent.

Hi Catherine

I use two metal rods and they work for me. Don't know how, don't know why. I live about an hour from you and if you want to give it a go I am happy to drive over. I am over that way from time to time anyhow. Otherwise see if you have a couple of metal rods though I know dowsers that use wood, or even as was suggested a bent coat hanger and hold the ends very loosely in your and just walk slowly. I am an Aussie and I know a woman who lives in Perth who is employed by mining companies who fly her into the desert at great expense to find water for their remote mine sites. She makes a good income from it. Some of the dowsers are so good that they will tell you the depth to the water and some of them apparently will get a taste of salt water in their mouths and are able to tell if the water is potable or not. It's interesting. I know that EDF use dowsers are these here parts to find cables.

Surely if it's an old pipe it will be metal? A metal detector should do it but if it's plastic a water diviner. I think that professionals have a very sensitive listening device to hear water passing but a tap needs to be open to hear it. A cross trench may be required.

When I lived in Wales, I asked the man from the Water Board about dowsing. He told me "We are not allowed to recommend dowsers, because there is no scientific proof that it works, but the one we use is.........."

I have seen dowsing work here <when we had an underground leak. Ask around, you will find an old person with the skill to do it.



Sogedo have been out here recently and found a broken t-junction with their detector in minutes. I think all you need to do is report a suspected leak, not tell them what the real point is then watch exactly where they go. A cat scanner alone would get you nowhere but dowsing might. A metal coat hangar is as good as anything from what I remember from a post a few months ago. I've never tried it myself, so no opinion there.

You can use a cat scanner but you also need a jenny to send a signal down the pipe for the scanner to pick it up!