The new $27,000 leak detection digital correlator purchased by the City of Russellville a few months ago, has more than paid for itself already, says city utilities director Wayne Thomas.
The city decided to buy the piece of equipment, which finds breaks in underground water lines, after locating two major leaks that have cost the city an estimated $30,000 over the past few years, which is the time the leaks were expected to have occurred.
The city purchases its water from the Logan Todd Regional Water Commission and any water that leaks out of busted pipes is like pouring money straight into the ground.
One of the leaks, which was spewing out three gallons per minute, was found on First Street. The city knew there was a leak of sorts there, but could not detect where it was located and didn’t want to tear the entire street out trying to find it. They even had people from the Division of Water come in and try to locate it, but they could not.
Another leak was located between the old animal shelter at the end of Memorial Park and Crossroads Church. This leak is speculated to have been there for at least two years and was putting out two gallons a minute, which cost the city $7,800 over that period of time.
Because of this new technology, the leak was narrowed down to within two feet. According to Mayor Mark Stratton, the equipment is a correlating noise type apparatus that can detect where a leak is located.
Since the purchase, the city has located 13 more leaks, which has dropped the unaccounted for water percentage from 31 and half percent to 27 percent. Several years ago, the city had as high as 70 percent unaccounted for water loss.
Unaccounted for water loss means water that the city is purchasing, but is losing into the ground because of its very old infrastructure. Some of the city’s water lines are decades and decades old. It is too costly for the city to replace all of the infrastructure, so they battle the leaks as they come about.
Thomas says it’s not the large leaks the city worries about, because they are found quite quickly. “If a large leak occurs, we know about it because it begins coming above the surface,” said Thomas. The smaller leaks absorb into the ground and over a period the city can lose several gallons and several thousands of dollars. “A small leak can lose a gallon a minute and over a period of time that’s 60 gallons per hour,” said Thomas.
The leak detection correlator can detect a leak within feet, says Thomas. Crews will go where a leak is expected to be and enter data that will listen for underground flow. He says the crews are also sweeping the city one section at a time to look for leaks. Unfortunately, the city does not come out to look for leaks between the meter and people’s property. This equipment is only for city use.
Thomas said the leaks will most likely continue due tot he age of the system. It is worse in the dryer hot days because the ground tends to shift which puts a stress on the pipes causing them to rupture and a leak develops.
“With this new devise, we are making headway and are saving the citizens and the city a lot of money,” said Thomas.
The city buys its water from Logan Todd Regional Water Commission for $3.74 per 1,000 gallons and sells the water to the citizens for $13.29 for the first 1,000 gallons. That price goes down the more water that a customer uses. This amount is calculated by a rate study taking into account the personnel that is employed by the city, the cost for equipment and maintenance and the repairing of the infrastructure.
“We have a lot of costs associated in delivering the water to the customer,” said Thomas.
In March of 2011, the city lost $50,000 in unaccounted for water. In June of 2012, the city only lost $25,000 in unaccounted for water.