With California facing a fourth grueling year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in January. Worse, a recent report claims that inefficient practices by state water agencies do little to provide relief. However, using the water detection technology that other cities across the nation are currently testing could be a solution.
The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability reached out to 10 agencies near Los Angeles, ultimately determining that six of them lack a definitive way of knowing how much water has been lost due to leakage and breaks. Furthermore, because the state doesn’t enforce water monitoring, its water retailers haven’t devoted time or money to the practice.
“It appears that most retailers don’t think of minimizing leaks and breaks as a conservation responsibility, despite the cost and scarcity of water in California,” Madelyn Glickfeld, UCLA Water Resources Group director and study co-author, said in a university press release.
Kartiki Naik, the study’s lead author, asserted that Los Angeles County has no “proactive strategy” in place for dealing with leaks.
“Only three out of the 10 retailers that we surveyed used available leak detection technology to prevent leaks,” he revealed. “Only six had a program to replace a certain amount of old pipe each year, and their maintenance schedules would take about 100 to 330 years to replace every pipe.”
Although Glickfield identified Washington, Texas and Georgia as states that promote water system audits and train agencies to do them, California could take a cue from a neighboring state: Nevada.
In June, StateScoop reported that the Las Vegas Valley Water District has been experimenting with an innovative water management monitoring system. It’s part of a larger project that aims to use technology to gather information about Nevada’s pipelines and the water going through them. Provided by Mueller Water Products’ Echologics division, it uses sensors that send water leak, water pressure and temperature information to a water management center.
One advantage of this new technology is that it results in more consistent data collection.
“Having this out in the field and being able to collect data consistently between two points, practically at any time, gives us some flexibility that way,” Charles Scott, manager of the asset management division for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, told StateScoop. Scott noted that these monitors allow cities to prevent leaks before they become major issues.
“By putting these monitors in, we’re … basically being able to monitor the pipe and detect small leaks and being able to make repairs to the pipe before they [get] to be large events.”
The Las Vegas Valley Water District’s system may be new, but it’s been successful. According to StateScoop, its water loss rate is 5 percent — a gem compared with older water systems, which have leakage-related water loss that’s as high as 50 percent. Intrigued by this effectiveness, Atlanta and Los Angeles are testing the same breakthrough technology. As California’s drought drags on, perhaps the state could tap into the resources that other locales are testing to eliminate future problems.