District works to curb water loss


Staff Writer

During the June 26 PAWSD (Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District) work session and meeting, manager Ed Winton gave a positive update about the district’s efforts finding and fixing leaks and curbing water loss.

Wachs Water Services (WWS), contracted by the district to survey 95 miles of the roughly 300 miles of the district’s pipes, found 14 leaks within the designated area. Leaks ranged anywhere from less than three gallons a minute (in at least one case even a half-gallon leak was found), to 20 gallons a minute. So far, six of the WWS identified leaks have been fixed, including a major leak estimated to be losing over 10 gallons per minute. None of the leaks found were visible on the surface and were found using aquatic sounding techniques.

“We totaled up the leaks that we found; estimated, it was about thirty gallons a minute,” Winton informed the board. “ … Now, having said that, they (WWS) left and we found six additional breaks after that that had come to the surface.”

The district is in the process of fixing the remaining identified leaks; however, there are two leaks where plans are on hold, as the leaks are under pavement and the exact location is unclear. As pavement replacement is very costly, PAWSD is waiting to re-examine the area to make sure they begin digging in the correct locations.

So far, PAWSD has used about $36,000 of the budgeted $50,000 for leak detection. It would be an estimated $21,203 for WWS to come back and finish an additional 55 miles of survey, which would mean 150 miles, or about half of the district, would be completed. The total cost to the district for this option would fall about $7,700 over the target budget.

Another option, Winton informed, would bring the cost to $64,000 for PAWSD, but would mean that WWS would come back and finish surveying the entire system. And WWS is willing to contract with PAWSD for three years at a fixed price. Because the cost would be over the budgeted $50,000, the board must approve any future contract with WWS.

Board member Gordon McIver asked, if the district did opt to complete surveying the entire system, would it be reasonable to expect the leaks to be identified and fixed this year.  Winton responded, saying that is a difficult thing to predict, as it is unknown how many and what kind of leaks the surveyors will find.

McIver stated that he feels it would be reasonable to complete half of the survey this year, leaving time for the district to fix any leaks that are found, and then complete the second half of the survey next year, first thing in the spring.

“I think customers just want to see progress, I know I do, as opposed to, ‘Oh well, I guess we’ll get to it someday,’” McIver said, adding that identifying leaks totaling “thirty gallons per minute, just in the last couple of months, is huge progress.”

Director Paul Hansen had a different view than McIver’s fix-as-we-go approach, stating, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they found so many leaks that we couldn’t fix them all, that’d be the best-case scenario.”

All directors and Winton agreed that curbing water loss is one of the district’s top priorities. Though no formal action was taken regarding a future contract with WWS, the subject is likely to be revisited when the full PAWSD board is present (directors Burt Adams and Mike Church were unable to attend Thursday’s meeting).

In a statement made to The SUN on Tuesday, Winton wrote, “Water loss is one of PAWSD top priorities.  We have been very pleased with the Wachs Water Services staff and the results of their efforts in finding 14 leaks in 150 miles of pipeline.  To capitalize on Wachs Water Services initial success, PAWSD is looking to expand leak detection to its entire distribution system over the next three years.”

May’s numbers

Overall, for May, Winton reported water unaccounted for was 33 percent, or 13.552 million gallons — the lowest unaccounted for number reported so far in 2014. Loss numbers are also down from last year, with 18.2 million gallons reported as unaccounted for in May 2013.

Broken down further, water loss for May was 304 gallons per minute, equating to 437,158 gallons a day, which, according to Winton, “is a step in the right direction.”

Reservoir levels

As of meeting time Thursday, June 26, the following water levels were reported:

• Steven’s Reservoir is down 1 inch.

• Lake Pagosa is down 2 inches.

• Village Lake is down 6 inches, attributed to the golf course pull.

• Lake Forrest is down 2 inches.

• Lake Hatcher is down 9 inches, attributed to the fact that the district was allowed to have water up until two weeks ago, according to Winton.

The decrease in reservoir and lake water levels is also attributed to evaporation.

Even with decreases in water levels, PAWSD’s manager reported, “We’re in really good shape for this time of year.”