Main breaks and leaky pipes lead to 340 million gallons of lost - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Main breaks and leaky pipes lead to 340 million gallons of lost water in Eau Claire

Eau Claire (WQOW) - Consider how much water it would take to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. That's how much water the city of Eau Claire lost last year: 340 million gallons.

The main culprits are breaks and leaks along the city's water mains

"When we see water coming up in the street, we don't ignore it we get out there and we fix them,” said Utilities Administrator Jeff Pippenger

But it's not just water main breaks that cause the city to lose water.

"A pencil sized hole is losing over 8400 per day which is about 216,000 gallons a month."

The gallons lost means dollars down the drain.

"Our water loss was about ten percent so 340 million gallons of water,” Pippenger said. “The City of Eau Claire produces five gallons of water for a penny. So by that math it equates to about $680,000 a year."

The reason for all that lost water?

"As pipes get older they're more susceptible to breaking,” said Pippenger.

So the city is deploying some high-tech equipment to find leaks before they become a big problem.

“We have some data loggers and basically, we put them on a valve and they listen for any sounds of a leak,” said Pippenger. “We also have some devices that locate where the leak is at. We'll use these in a water main break because often where the water is coming up isn't where the break is."

The city says a proactive step like that, has kept the water loss below what the state mandates. If Eau Claire's water loss hit 15-percent, that would require more extensive fixes.

“If we can find the problem before it becomes a bigger problem out in the streets that is what our goal is,” said Pippenger.

For about the last five years, the city has averaged a 10-percent water loss, so that 340 million gallon figure is about the norm.

Keep in mind, that figure is for 2013. So far this year, the city has had had 14 water main breaks. The average is 10 for an entire year.

The city has applied to the state for emergency aid to help pay for the increased cost of repairing those breaks and frozen pipes over the winter.

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