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Fix those leaks

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.

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4 Comments

  1. robert kane says:

    Remember, more than 60% of what is beneath the city’s streets are beyond their 50 year life expectancy. While we can see and measure broken water pipes and leaks….just imagine all the broken/leaking drain pipes that just have all that waste leaking into the ground.

    I know a lot of people don’t like the renew Houston extra fee on their bill, but I see it as a necessity for all the years the infrastructure was neglected.

    Now as long as there is no monkey business with those funds and it’s used for what it’s supposed to be for with transparency….but there should be great urgency to to get those things fixed NOW.

    I really hounded on this point when I was running and I guess I came across as a complainer maybe but I’m really just pragmatic about problems that exist… just like the city’s financial state, I still believe unless someone dumps a boat load of money into it (like the state or Feds, which is unlikely in both cases) the city will need to file bankruptcy by 2021… but with term limits, which current elected official even needs to worry/deal with that?

  2. Lake Houston says:

    The City of Houston and the citizens of Houston really got screwed over by Mr. Mike Sullivan our fearless leader over the clean up of Lake Houston. To have water we have to have a place to store the water. The place we store the water should be as clean as we can get it. Over the summer at the worst of the drought Lake Houston was down 7 feet and the trash and debris is overwhelming.

    Our Fearless Leader Mr. Mike Sullivan holds a press conference to say they are going to clean up Lake Houston. That was the last we heard from him. “Poundering” or us from the south call “BS”

    What a wasted chance we had and they blew it. Absolutely Blew It! Totally Blew It! And to think this man heads the Water Resources Management Committe. And now I hear he wants to be our Tax Assessor-Collector, God Help Us.

    So when Lake Houston goes back down this summer the City of Houston needs to start the Dredging process of Lake Houston and clean up the all the trash so the city can have more water capacity for storage of all of our drinking water.

    I would think its a no brainer, have a clean storage area “Lake Houston” and all of us will have cleaner drinking water. Please check out some of the pictures of Lake Houston on our facebook page ” Lake Houston”

    Thanks Kuff. Keep the heat on them.

  3. [...] Stephen Costello writes a letter in response to the Chron story about leaks in the city’s water pipes. The article “City lost millions to water leaks” (Page [...]

  4. [...] dry weather is expected to persist in 2012. So making sure we are doing all we can to not waste water would be a good idea. SciGuy has [...]

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