News Feature | May 14, 2014

Non-Revenue Water Crisis: Tennessee Town Turns To Feds For Help

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

pipereg

A tiny town in Tennessee is losing almost half its water to leaky pipes.

The figure applies to the supply that Westmoreland buys from Gallatin, The Tennessean reported

Gallatin charges Westmoreland $13.71 for the first 2,000 gallons, and less for every 750 gallons beyond that, the report said. "Westmoreland’s 2,200 residents use 500,000 gallons of water per day and pay $23.81 inside and $35.72 outside city limits for up to 2,000 gallons of water."

How much of that water vanishes? "The city loses between 36 percent and 46 percent of its purchased water," the report said, citing a Westmoreland official. 

Now, the government is trying to help, providing Westmoreland $1.4 million in funds, largely from the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service (RUS). 

RUS provides loans and grants for drinking water and wastewater facilities in towns of 10,000 or less, according to the agency. During fiscal year 2012, RUS invested over $1.4 billion in 845 water and wastewater projects in rural areas, according to the organization's annual report

Rural Utilities Administrator John Padalino, who recently visited cities benefiting from federal funds, noted the challenges ahead for Westmoreland. 

“They have a lot of work to do,” he said in the news report. “Westmoreland’s situation is typical for rural America. And this shows how crucial is investment and infrastructure to support economic development.”

Westmoreland's funding will be aimed at replacing "some 200 service water lines and upgrade aged parts of main lines. The system received a similar rehabilitation in 2011 through a $500,000 state grant," the report said. 

Tennessee has many cities where outdated infrastructure is a drain on the water supply. 

The state has reported $3.5 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next two decades, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

Image credit: "Broken pipe," zerok © 2008, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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