We lost a lot of water this year, which seems like an especially undesirable thing during a record drought.
At the peak of this year’s record drought, the city of Houston lost more than 18 billion gallons of water through a system that was leaking like a sieve, amounting to tens of millions of dollars wasted in potential revenue.
The largest losses occurred in September and October, when more than 9 billion gallons — about one-fourth of all the water produced during those two months — leaked from a system riddled by countless pipe breaks, according to recently released city records.
“Water is a valuable resource, and we’re blowing it right and left,” said Katie Molina, general manager of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition in Houston. “We have to ask why we have so many leaks. Is it all drought-related, or did we let our infrastructure fall into such a state of disrepair that it is now coming back to haunt us?”
There’s some dispute in the story over how much this represented in lost revenue to the city, but I’m less interested in that as I am in how much it represented in lost capacity. The city is looking at tapping into new sources of water to help meet future demand driven by population growth. I’d like to know what the growth curve looks like if we lost a minimal amount of water to leakage, instead of the 18% we apparently lost over the course of the year. Granted, this was surely a worse year than usual for water main breaks, but the point is that we plan our capacity based on peak needs, and higher loss levels factor into that. How much capacity will we really need to add if we take steps to ensure we actually get all that we pump? That’s a question for which I’d like to see a more definitive answer.