Mar 28, 2008

Birmingham, Ala., Reduces Water Loss by 39%

Loss is down but still above national standard

Birmingham Water Works in Birmingham, Ala., has reduced its water loss from 28 to 17% since August, a 39% decrease, the Birmingham News reported. The utility's water loss still remains greater than the national standard of l5%, however.

Sonny Jones, the assistant general manager of engineering and maintenance, presented to the water works board early results from a long-term plan to reduce wasted and unaccounted for water that was implemented after the Birmingham News reported high water losses.

Some board members called the situation unacceptable, especially when customers face water restrictions due to the severe drought. Conservationists also insisted that the water losses should be addressed before seeking expensive or environmentally harmful new water sources.

Jones said factors that contributed to the recent reductions are more accurate water meters at pump stations, a decrease in illegal hookups, plugging water leaks and changes in national guidelines on how water losses are measured that are considered more accurate.

"We have gotten much more focused on how we measure it," Jones said. Last year, water works officials promised the board they would achieve significant results by this month.

"We're not finished," Jones said. "We have a lot to do in a lot of different areas."

Some of the water was not showing up on faulty meters but was actually in the system. Jones said malfunctioning meters at plants exaggerated the amount of water lost. More than a dozen outdated meters were recently replaced.

"You never want to have a loss of water, but in a system our size it is inevitable," Board Chairman Anthony Barnes said. "We are working very diligently to get our system below the national average."