Clayton County, Ga., program focuses on leak detection

Nov. 7, 2003
If a penny saved is a penny earned, then the Clayton County Water Authority is proving that a dollar spent is seven dollars saved.

Morrow, Ga., Nov. 7, 2003 -- If a penny saved is a penny earned, then the Clayton County Water Authority is proving that a dollar spent is seven dollars saved.

Starting in March of 2000, the CCWA began a system-wide leak detection program. The daunting task before the CCWA is to survey its over 1,300 miles of watermains and over 450 miles of service lines for possible leaks, and the Authority is half way there.

The CCWA is one of the few systems nationwide to conduct a survey on its entire system, according to Herb Etheridge, manager of maintenance and construction for the CCWA. The Authority has received visitors from as far as San Antonio, Texas to observe the program's progress.

"We are seeing a dramatic drop in the amount of water lost due to leaks every year since we've started this program," remarks Etheridge. "Catching the leaks early before there are major problems allows us to save our customers money."

In 2000, there were over 735 million gallons of water leakage from the system detected and repaired at a production cost of over $1.3 million. Production cost equates to the amount of money that would have been expended to treat and pump that volume of water. The number has dropped steadily over the past three years.

Leaks can come from a variety of factors. A water system consists of pipes, fittings, valves, hydrants, pumps, meters, and much more. A flaw in one small piece of the system could lead to a big problem. Many would not be detected in a timely manner without a detailed inspection, such as this, explains Etheridge.

According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), a 15% loss from leaks is considered a well maintained system. The CCWA is currently experiencing a 9.3% loss says Wade Brannan, general manager of the CCWA.

The CCWA has spent nearly $380,000 in the past 42 months to find these leaks. So far, the CCWA has recovered over $2.6 million worth of lost water from the repairs of these leaks, which were unearthed thanks to the investment in the new technology. For every dollar expended by the CCWA on leak detection, there has been a recovery of $7.04 worth of water.

The CCWA still encourages customers to report any leaks they notice. Many leaks can take nearly two years before they surface, while other leaks may never surface and therefore are not detected by normal methods, which is why the CCWA is going right to the source to find these leaks.

"This program gives us an in-depth look at our entire system and we are excited by what we are finding," says Pete McQueen, chairman of the Authority. "It is our goal to run the most efficient and secure system possible. We depend on technologies such as this to help us verify that."