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Water loss from leaks can drain big bucks from cities, customers
Gainesville among municipalities working to fix faulty lines, tanks, meters
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Gainesville leak detection

• 2010: 7 leaks found, 1,260,160 gallons recorded/recovered, $2,696.40 production cost savings*
• 2011: 27 leaks, 16,910,000 gallons, $36,187.40
• 2012: 26 leaks, 20,626,061 gallons, $44,139.64
• 2013: 27 leaks, 9,659,080 gallons, $20,670.26
• 2014: 19 leaks, 10,442,880 gallons, $22,348.02
• 5-year total: 106 leaks, 58,898,181 gallons, $126,041.72

*$22,348.02 in production cost saved based on the cost of $2.14 dollars for producing the “next thousand gallons” of treated water.
Water loss figures for all of Georgia can be found at

Source: City of Gainesville Leak Detection Program

Gainesville recovered nearly 59 million gallons of water in the first five years of a leak detection program, saving an estimated $126,000 in the process.

But more work remains to limit such water losses locally and across the state.

Gainesville’s service area lost an estimated 846 million gallons of water in 2013, according to a recent analysis of state Environmental Protection Division audit data by FluksAqua, an online community of water professionals.

And losses add an estimated $25.95 a year to the average utility bill.

“The audits are undertaken to help water systems develop and implement water loss control programs,” according to a statement from the state Environmental Protection Division. “They are designed to provide information on improvements in water supply efficiency over time.”

The audit measured different types of water loss, including water main leaks, service line leaks and storage tank leaks.

Gainesville also reports its “apparent losses” resulting from errors in collecting and storing customer usage data.

Forsyth County lost 518 million gallons, according to the analysis, about the size of 785 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Athens-Clarke County lost 390 million gallons. And Atlanta lost 6.9 billion gallons.

Across Georgia, water providers lose nearly 78,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools every year, according to FluksAqua, which reports that an “inefficient water supply increases the cost of service to customers and drains the environment prematurely.”

Water losses contribute to production costs, according to the analysis, a result of aging infrastructure.

Leaks began to catch the public’s attention in earnest when a severe drought struck Georgia in 2007. Water restrictions were put in place and leak detection programs were developed.

They may come in handy this summer. The metro Atlanta area is currently experiencing a severe drought, while conditions in Gainesville and Hall County remain moderate, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Forecasts call for a hot, dry summer following little rain in April and May. And the effects are already starting to show at Lake Lanier, where levels are currently about 3 feet below full pool.

Georgia is one of only six states with water loss reporting requirements for all providers.

Linda MacGregor, director of the Gainesville Department of Water Resources, said efforts to control water loss include daily tracking and monitoring of unusually high usage.

The city replaced all water meters between 2003 and 2014 to better track leaks and has implemented new technology to more quickly identify and repair leaks.

MacGregor said conservation measures include tiered pricing; public education and outreach; and thousands of plumbing retrofits, which have been expanded to multifamily and commercial developments.

“This is a continuous effort to both improve our data and decrease our water losses,” she added.

MacGregor said Gainesville has conducted a water loss audit every year since 2011, and scores have improved, showing the “increasing reliability and accuracy of the data used in the audit.”

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