News Feature | November 30, 2015

After 10 Years, Pipe Leaking Millions Of Gallons Finally Fixed

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

After leaking millions of gallons of water per month for a decade, a pipe in the town of Cherokee, AL, is finally being repaired.

It was a big leak for a small town, according to Cherokee Mayor Terry Cosby. “We estimated about 1.3 million a month, our engineer did, and so if you put a dollar figure on that, that’s about $20,000 a year and if we sold that water, there’s a price around $70,000,” he said, WHNT reported. That works out to 35 gallons per minute wasted, the Times Daily reported.

For years, the town chose not to repair the pipe since it appeared too costly and difficult to fix. It was “not for lack of trying, but because it was hard to reach, and equipment wasn’t available to pinpoint the source,” the Times Daily reported.

Cosby explained what made it a challenging repair, per WHNT: “It’s a big drainage ditch underneath the highway. You can stand up in it, but it’s coming out of the concrete and we can’t go dig up the four lane to fix it, and it was leaking into the drainage ditch. So, that’s where the problem was.”

It is the town’s second attempt at fixing the pipe. “Town engineers attempted patching the leak once, slowing it. Cosby said they never had the equipment or resources for a permanent fix. So, they finally called in the Alabama Rural Water Association for help,” the report said.

So what finally solved the problem?

“A key to getting to the elusive leak, according to Chuck Hellums, who worked on it, was to dig deeper than officials had dug before. Also, he said the additional equipment [Derek Pierce of the Alabama Rural Water Association] brought in made the difference in pinpointing the exact location,” the Times Daily reported.

Pierce explained that the problem is not unheard of in small towns.

“It isn’t that unusual for smaller towns to have leaks for long periods of time like that,” Pierce said. “They just usually lack the equipment to get to them. In this case, it was a pretty simple fix, and they should see a significant improvement (in efficiency) in their water system. They won’t be losing money on it any more.”

Big cities struggle with water loss, as well, and the problem exists all over the world. The World Bank says the price tag on non-revenue water, globally, is close to $14 billion each year.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Distribution Solutions Center.