Water loss blamed on leaky pipes Meter replacement still is planned

August 12, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Malfunctioning water meters may not be the main reason the town of Manchester has been losing much of the water it has pumped, Councilman John A. Riley says.

Leaking water pipes may have been the main culprit, he said at Tuesday's Town Council meeting.

In a report to the town last spring, Steven L. Miller, water and waste water superintendent, said the system had been losing significant amounts of water for eight years. The amount lost varied from 17 percent to 34 percent, he said. A loss of 9 percent is considered normal in a system of this size.

When water meters wear out, they register less water consumption than is actually used. The town loses money because customers are under-charged for water and sewer service.

The Manchester council budgeted $70,000 for replacement of water meters in fiscal 1994.

Mr. Riley said Manchester still needs a water meter replacement program, but, he said, "I think we could scale it back some."

He said the replacement program should begin with meters that are installed in pits in the ground, which are time-consuming to read, and with meters known to be old or malfunctioning.

Mr. Riley said the town's water loss recently has been cut below 10 percent, to a normal level. Several large leaks were identified and repaired in the town's water lines in July.

A leak in a water main behind the Manchester fire house that was repaired July 28-29 is estimated to have lost about 34,000 gallons a day. A leak on Brougham Court, repaired July 20, was estimated to have lost about 28,000 gallons a day. And a leak at Chestnut and Oak streets, repaired July 5, caused a loss of about 30,000 gallons a day.

The town pumped an average of 241,000 gallons of water a day in July.

Town Manager Terry L. Short said yesterday that no one knows how long each of the leaks existed, so it is not clear how much of the town's continuing water loss was due to them.

He said he still thinks the water meters pose a significant problem.

"When you have 300 meters that are over 20 years old," he said, "you're losing water."

He said aging water meters were replaced in 15 Manchester households last December. Comparison of water usage in those homes for three-month periods before and after the work shows that a third of the meters malfunctioned significantly.

In five of the homes, he said, no comparison was possible because the homes' occupants changed. Another five dwellings had no significant change in water consumption.

However, Mr. Short said, five of the homes showed a large increase in consumption once the meters were replaced, indicating that the old meters had under-charged the residents by as much as 50 percent.

Last spring, Mr. Miller estimated that 62 percent of the town's zTC meters are 15 to 25 years old. If one-third of those are significantly under-charging customers, it means one-fifth of the town's water meters may be costing the town money.

Mr. Riley said yesterday that he cannot prove that leaking pipes were the chief cause of the town's water loss. But, he said, "When you've been in this business since 1970, you kind of have a feel for things. . . . Water meters just aren't that bad -- even old ones."

He said he believes the town still needs to switch to water meters that can be read automatically.

Representatives of several water meter manufacturers have demonstrated their wares to the Town Council over the last several months.

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