Locating PVC Water Lines

I am thinking about investing in some locating equipment to map out the PVC lines in my parks. The obvious goal is to find and repair leaks but the leak detection companies can’t do much without knowing the location of the lines. There are many choices of equipment in USA Bluebook (by the way I recommend this catalog especially for those park owners with private water and sewer systems). Prices and features vary quite a bit so would welcome any comments or suggestions or experience on this topic. I bought a cheap ($400) unit a few years ago to locate some metal gas piping and it was a waste of money. Here is what I found so far:

  1. Aquatrac 50 & 100 - specifically for locating pressurized non metallic pipe. Price approx $3500. The idea is that the transmitter creates a seismic pressure wave (sort of like tapping on the pipe or creating a water hammer) and you walk along with the receiver to detect the signal. Advantages: You don’t have to shut off the water or do any special prep. Also you do not have to buy any tracer rodder cable (up to $1000). Disadvantages: I have heard from at least one person that it does not work very well. I would not want to pay that much and be frustrated with the results.

  2. Ground Penetrating Radar - just as the name implies. Mostly used for larger pipes so not very usefu for water lines - and also very expensive - around $27K. Very cool technology though (especially if you are an archaeologist).

  3. Traditional locators that use an electronic frequency. Many brands and prices to choose from ($1000 up to $4000). For plastic pipe you would have to put a small sonde (transmitter beacon) inside the pipe and push it along with a cable then walk along and detect the signal. Advantages - strong reliable signal (I think), can do other types of locating if needed. Disadvantages: Shutting off the water, creating access to the pipe (meaning digging and cutting pipe) in multiple locations, beacon may not fit in smaller pipe sizes, additional cost for the beacon ($350) and the rodder cable ($1000).

You might ask - why not just hire a locating company? That would be an option but I’m guessing that for the price of paying a contractor to do one park you could buy all the equipment and do it on more parks or only do sections at a time at your convenience. Also, this equipment is easily transported so even if your parks are in different locations you could still do them all. If one of us park owners became skilled at this we could go around and do other parks for a nominal fee or maybe share some equipment. Your comments are welcome.