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City Council approves leak equipment
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As much as 3 million gallons of water that flows through Gainesville’s water lines each day may never make it to the tap.

The city’s Public Utilities Department loses about 15 percent or 16 percent of the water it pumps through its pipes to leaks, an estimate the department hopes to remedy with the purchase of leak detection equipment, Director Kelly Randall said Wednesday.

“Nowadays, with the water resources getting tighter and tighter and more valuable, certainly finding leaks and stopping them is the right thing to do,” Randall said.

Officials from the Public Utilities Department say they hope the equipment will allow them to locate and repair 20 leaks in the first 12 months. The Gainesville City Council approved the purchase of the $37,500 equipment from Metrotech Corp. at its meeting Tuesday.

The equipment, when attached to pipes or fire hydrants connected to pipes, will “listen” for leaks, Randall said. Once the equipment finds a leak, it will pinpoint its location for department officials to repair, he said.

Regionally, approximately 13 to 15 percent of water in city systems is lost due to leaky pipes, said Pat Stevens, a planner for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, which encompasses a 15-county area from Hall County in the north to Coweta County in the south.

The district hopes to reduce that number to 10 percent or below.

“The only way you can do that and maintain it is if you have a regular program,” Stevens said.

A plan adopted by the district in 2003 requires area utilities to assess leaks in their water systems and implement programs to find and repair leaks.

But Stevens concedes that the requirement makes for an expensive undertaking.

“You go try to find leaky pipes underground and under the street,” she said. “It takes skill. It takes good equipment. It takes diligence.”

Estimates by Joey Leverette, Gainesville’s distribution and collection manager, show the city could recoup the cost of the equipment in one year. Leverette said if the department could repair 20 leaks in the first year, it could recover 17.5 million gallons of lost water.

“We may find a lot more (water) than that,” Randall said.