News Feature | June 23, 2015

New Hampshire City Can't Locate Million-Gallon Leak

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Officials in the New Hampshire city of Dover are still searching for an elusive water leak that opened up in May somewhere in the city's infrastructure and leaks one million gallons of water per day.

Dover Public Works is partnering with the state to find the mysterious leak. Water officials announced that restrictions might be put in place if the leak is not found soon, since it has the potential to lower the city's water capacity, according to Seacoast Online.

“We are producing at a high capacity, and I am concerned that if we have an extended dry spell this summer, we may have some water shortage concerns,” City Manager Mike Joyal said earlier this month.

Bill Boulanger, superintendent of public works, noted the difficulties of finding the leak.

“It could be anywhere,” he said, according to NH1. “Underground in city pipes or possibly in homeowner’s backyard, but we’re working to track it down.

Nighttime is when city employees search for the leak, according to the report. "Public Works is using pods that use sound waves to detect running water in the middle of the night, when usage should be at its lowest," the report said.

More on how the city is searching out the leak, per WMUR:

Officials said that almost one-third of the city's water production is leaking away, presumably from a broken pipe, but despite state-of-the-art computer programs and listening devices on fire hydrants, the source of the leak hasn’tbeen found. The listening devices record in 15-minute increments starting at 2 a.m., when most people are asleep and the pipes should be quiet. If the sound of rushing water is recorded, it could lead investigators to a leaky pipe. Officials said 30 million gallons of waterwas lost in May. The city uses ground water collected at eight pump houses and then sent to a treatment center before being piped into homes and businesses.

“Usually water leaks are clearly visible because it pops up out of the ground or in the middle of the street, and we just haven’t seen that,” Joyal said, per a news report. “It’s hiding somewhere, but we will find it.” It’s possible that the leak is occurring “underneath a stream or river, making it harder for crews to find," Seacoast reported.

Aging infrastructure is partly to blame. "The underground labyrinth of pipes is old. A 10-inch main that was just replaced dated back to the 1800s," WMUR reported.

Officials said ratepayers will not foot the bill for the water loss. "The financial toll of the leak is still being tallied. While there is no direct cost to the city by pumping extra water, it places additional stress on city pumps and equipment. All that additional volume must be treated with standard additives," Seacoast reported.