Below are the highlights from the article from Water Efficiency Magazine (July-August 2009).
Jimmy Carter, Senior Director of Field Services of American Leak Detection, was interviewed for the article linked above, and we had the chance to ask Jimmy about certain quotes from the article to provide more insight on the state of the infrastructure.
- nation’s water infrastructure system 2009 grade of D-.
Jimmy Carter: “Due to our water system’s age coupled with supply and demand issues, our water infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. Typical systems lose as little as 4-5% while some systems reach as high as 40 to 60% of unaccountable water that could be due to leaks, theft or non-metered usage. Loss not only means waste, but also the expense of treatment and lost revenue.
Homeowners hate to see their water bills go up, but may not understand the bigger picture from the water district side. The cost for treating the water, upgrading infrastructure by replacing old lines, keeping the supply for new construction of new potable and non-potable systems, increasing production at their treatment plants, and dealing with issues such as the smelt belt in our California aqueduct systems are just some of the many issues water districts must face that would impact customers.
“2002 analysis – funding gap for replacing aging pipes would be an estimated 27 billion a year over 20 years.
Jimmy Carter: “This is a serious concern for our nation. Our government needs to make it a priority for funding as well as resources.”
Water utilities should drive toward the goal of getting water loss down to about 4%.
Jimmy Carter: “It requires continuous and proactive attention to meters and distribution pipe integrity.”
- water audits and leak detection activities play a key role in doing so.
Jimmy Carter: “I think that states it clearly.”
Long-term, the country’s objective in managing water loss is moving toward identifying and managing failure before it occurs or at least manage losses early on …
Jimmy Carter: “Again, being proactive is the key to keeping a sound water distribution system.”
- 10% of the nation’s pipes exceed 80 years old, 30% are between 40 and 80 years old, and 60% are under 40 years old.
Jimmy Carter: “As our water system ages, we need to continue to replace degraded pipes and meters. It would be ideal to have a catalog of pipe ages so we can prioritize the replacement of the pipes in the most efficient way.”
– most critical criterion for pipe replacement is the leak in the pipes.
Jimmy Carter: “Corrosion, ground shifting and poor quality management lead to the majority of leaks.”
Water leak surveys can be somewhat time consuming and may seem costly, involving expenses in human labor and high-cost transportation. But over all the survey is really going to give the system a through inspection of their system, allowing them to create needed repairs and account for any water loss issues.
Jimmy Carter: “Bottom line, when reacting to emergency leaks, the cost is higher as opposed to a having a long-term plan of system maintenance that includes proactive leak surveys.
We work with several water districts that have us conduct leak surveys on an annual basis or when they know a certain section has a leak. This scenario really helps identify unaccounted water loss and helps the districts get their systems back to a tighter check status.”
Remote sensing is the way it must go… The technology eliminates the human factor. You install very inexpensive sensors along the pipe, and it’s very
easy to install.
Jimmy Carter: “The current cost for these sensors are not affordable for small systems. The sensing systems are great for large systems that can afford the up-front investment. Also, human involvement is still required to interpret the information, send out the crews to verify the location, and make the repair. American Leak Detection is working with many rural water distributors to help them cut down their water loss.”
Part of the challenge of performing leak surveys is that distribution systems may not always have accurate maps of their system
Jimmy Carter: “While some districts have current, documented maps, we have found that many utility maps are not always current or indicate types of materials and pipe diameters. Part of what we do is verify the location of the pipes underground before we attempt a leak detection or correlation.”
Leak Detection can take some detective work…
Jimmy Carter: “Leak detection is a game of solving the mystery of the source of the leak. On occasion, they are easy, but you can’t assume anything. With every detected leak, we verify the information before penetrating the ground to dig up the pipe.”
Leak detection can, and sometimes should, extend all the way into the residential, commercial, and industrial operations.
Jimmy Carter: “Many water utility customers have leaks that the utility cannot service. The utility can only provide service up to the meter. The pipe on the other side of the meter is the customers’ responsibility. Many utilities recommend our service to their customers to help them solve the customer’s leak problem.”
- 83% of the 53,000 community water systems serve fewer than 3,300 people.
Jimmy Carter: “Many water systems are in rural areas serving agriculture. These agricultural water distribution systems lack the funds to place automatic leak sensors. They need help from their respective state water association to underwrite the funds to allow them take measures to reduce their water loss.”
These smaller systems face huge financial, technological, and managerial challenges in meeting a growing number of federal drinking water regulations…
Jimmy Carter: “The future federal drinking water regulations will be difficult to uphold for the small water utilities. They will be burdened with huge fines if they cannot get their water loss down to the federal minimum.”
Small municipal entities can get help through their state’s rural water association…
Jimmy Carter: “American Leak Detection has been working closely with California Rural Water Association to train their circuit riders and association members in the generalities of leak survey work and water loss auditing.”
The greatest reason for performing leak detection on the infrastructure now is to determine unaccounted-for water loss and reduce lost revenue.
Jimmy Carter: “Unaccounted-for water loss can be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s simply an accounting error or possibly faulty meters, but many times it is leakage in the pipes.
Water agencies are doing a great job of educating home owners and business owners on ways to conserve water by providing
water conservation tips, 20 gallon challenges, irrigation systems
that are more water friendly, and recommendations for landscapes that require minimal water. Water conservation programs, leak surveys, and new monitoring technologies all help to protect one of our most precious resources – water.”