Cassville Public Works repairs three water leaks

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Leaks amount to nearly 7 million gallons of water lost

Cassville’s plan to overhaul its water and wastewater system is gaining traction, but until that happens, public works staff must continue to address the problems an aging utility system often presents — including water leaks.

During December, the city’s six wells pumped 15,639,724 gallons of water, and during that time, three water leaks were discovered and repaired by staff, which were responsible for an estimated 1.99 million gallons of lost water in pressure Zone 1.

More revealing was a total combined water loss in all four pressure zones of the city — an estimated 6,994,626 million gallons. According to David Brock, public works director for the city, the 1.99 million gallons of [identified] water loss is not included in that figure.

In a departmental report prepared by Brock to the city council, the estimated water loss to the city as represented in the above figure amounted to 44.75 percent; a 19 percent increase from November 2017.

The eye-opening figures are what city officials call the “proof in the pudding” that the city’s infrastructure is overdue for a major overhaul, and as such, it’s been targeted as one of the city’s largest capital improvement projects, which will be starting later this year.

“A system that is in good shape would be at 10 percent of less of water loss,” Brock said. “A system with a 50 percent or more loss means it’s time to act.”

The city hired engineers from Allgeier, Martin and Associates in November 2017 to map out its stormwater system, pinpoint leaks, and provide an inventory of its infrastructure including the size, location, material type and condition of underground pipes. In addition, it is set to receive a $4 million loan from the USDA to repair its wastewater system.

“The first step of asset management is knowing what you have and what condition it is in,” Brock said. “Stormwater lags behind. It’s not recognized as a utility, and no one pays money for that system to work. It relies on gravity. The water system is pressurized, so generally you do not have stormwater that’s able to get into the system. That’s why we track our wastewater, because it’s a general indicator of the health of our system.

The biggest water loss spikes in December occurred in Zones 2 and 4, which typically have the lowest losses.

In Zone 2, losses spiked to nearly 50 percent, and Zone 4, off Old Exeter Road in the area behind Walmart, nearly 40 percent. In November by comparison, Zone 4 was less than 7 percent, and Zone 2, at only 15 percent.

Estimated water loss in Zone 1, which includes the oldest section of the city’s water infrastructure system in the downtown area, was 4,126,368 gallons; Zone 2, 1,061,803 gallons; Zone 3, 1,394,539 gallons; and Zone 4, 411,916 gallons.

The time of year can make a significant difference in water loss, Brock said. In August, for instance, overall water loss was less than 30 percent.

“It’s not abnormal to see this kind of increase [this time of year], because the ground freezes and can shift causing rocks to push against a pipe where it has a weak area,” he said. “Those are the months where leaks are the worst.”

Regardless, the water loss equates to lost dollars for the city, too, which it takes seriously.

“We put numbers on what that’s costing us, and that’s almost a full-time employee,” Brock said in reference to water loss figures for December. “So, it’s easy to understand why the city needs to invest in a system-wide replacement and improvement plan on the water side.”

While it can take time to pinpoint the location of water leaks, larger leaks typically surface. And some locations are more suspect.

“That’s the trick in finding those locations,” Brock said. “Sometimes, water bubbles up out of the ground. Also, we have equipment that can detect leaks.”

Brock told council members in January that he planned to dedicate more man hours to finding leaks and searching locations that are suspect, and that the city has adequate equipment to do it.

“All communities are unique, but here in Cassville, stormwater is a lot more complicated and a concern for the community because of the flooding issues,” Brock said.

Even with a new system, there will always be issues to address.

“You’ll never get to zero,” Brock said.

In December, staff performed 49 orders for water services. The year 2017 ended with 179.5 billion gallons produced.

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