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Millions of Gallons of Water Lost Through Leaks, Other Sources

Posted December 18, 2007

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— As Raleigh and Durham tighten the taps on residential and business users to conserve water in the midst of a record-setting drought, the two municipal systems continue to lose millions of gallons daily through leaky pipes and other sources.

Water has steadily bubbled into Broad Street outside Dr. Deb Conner's endodontics office in downtown Durham for weeks from an underground pipe. A stream of water flows down the gutter into a nearby storm drain.

"Over 24 hours a day for four to six weeks is significant," Conner said. "Someone did come and looked at the problem and recognized, yes, it is leaking. They tried to find the source but were unable to."

Such leaks are just a part of the reason the city loses nearly 13 percent of its average daily water consumption, or about 2.6 million gallons each day.

"The 11 percent to 13 percent ... is our 'unaccounted-for-water' and is not strictly attributable to leaks in the system," Vicki Westbrook, deputy director of Water Management for Durham, wrote in an e-mail to WRAL Tuesday.

Durham also makes "educated estimates on the amount of water lost in a main break, the amount of water used to flush a sewer spill, the amount of water used for fire fighting by both the City and volunteer Fired Departments, the amount of water used for street sweeping and cleaning, sewer line flushing . . . and the list goes on," she wrote.

Durham had "an extensive leak detection survey" a few years ago and that report showed only minor leaks in the system, which were addressed, she said. After the first of the year, Durham will contract out another leak detection survey.

Westbrook said it should also be noted that "the extremely dry weather is a direct cause of many leaks; as the ground dries and contracts, pipes underground shift, which can lead to both leaks at joints as well as longitudinal leaks."

Water systems in North Carolina are allowed to lose up to 15 percent of their water through leaks and other means under state rules.

About 8 percent of the 40 million gallons Raleigh pumps through its system every day – 3.2 million gallons – cannot be accounted for. So, the city has assigned a team of workers to track and fix leaks as soon as possible.

"If it's leaking, it gets fixed right away," team member Dennis James said.

The team inspects 2,000 miles of underground water pipes in Raleigh, using $45,000 audio sensors that work like high-powered stethoscopes to hear leaks.

Raleigh officials said Tuesday that tougher water restrictions could be enacted after Christmas. About 95 days of drinking water remain in Falls Lake, the city's primary reservoir.

"If I find a leak, that's a good feeling," James said. "Anything you accomplish, you feel good about it."

Conner said she wishes Durham had a similar program to plug the leak outside her office.

"We are trying to be frugal and responsible citizens with this kind of water shortage, and we want the city to rise to the same standards," she said.

22 Comments

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  • getrealpeople Dec 19, 2007

    when you use a fire hydrant to put out a fire it is not accounted for. Fire sprinkler pump systems have to be tested and water flows for a required time frame which most dump to the storm drain. Again not accounted for water. The water used for testing & flushing of water mains for water qualtiy or to put into service is not accounted for. Wasted?

  • hp277 Dec 19, 2007

    Bad water meters also contribute to the loss. Reading those meters only every 60 days also cuts down the chance of recognizing leaks and bad meters.

    How hard would it be to compare the amount of water going through a main line with with what is being used at meters attached on that line? Seems like that would point to bad meters, leaks, or both.

  • djofraleigh Dec 18, 2007

    People also replace the meter with a length of pipe to fill up pools and other high use needs and when water is cut off. Hydrants are sometimes tapped a bit strong as well.

  • lizard Dec 18, 2007

    Wait til after the Nov 08 election and all the dems and libs are crying. Plenty of water then.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 18, 2007

    "OK...Rushbot?! If all the aquifers are in the eastern part of the state, what does my 340 foot deep well tap into? Surface water? I think not. There are "aquifers" here in the peidmont. Check your geography, dude."

    It's all of the water from the leaking water lines. :-)

  • richard2 Dec 18, 2007

    The current people in charge just don't know how to stop the leaks.(tax money and water)

  • Garden Guy Dec 18, 2007

    With that much water lost due to "no ones fault, no ones accountable" leaks, the water management folks must be rejects from NC DOT

  • kstor33 Dec 18, 2007

    Oh and another thing..."Water systems in North Carolina are allowed to lose up to 15 percent of their water through leaks and other means under state rules."

    Does anybody get the fact that it doesn't matter what the stupid "state" allows when there is NO WATER LEFT?! What good are your dumb rules then? Take your idiotic rules and shove them up your idiotic @#$%!

  • kstor33 Dec 18, 2007

    OK...Rushbot?! If all the aquifers are in the eastern part of the state, what does my 340 foot deep well tap into? Surface water? I think not. There are "aquifers" here in the peidmont. Check your geography, dude.

  • Rolling Along Dec 18, 2007

    They want us to cut back usage by 50% they need to reduce leakage by 50%...fair deal?

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