Streamline - Winter 2015 - (Page 31)

Chronic Leaks Tips on leak location and finding funding BY ANTHONY HESS, MBA, SUSTAINABILITY COORDINATOR, VDH-OFFICE OF DRINKING WATER for dealing with chronic leaks without sufficient funding. Most would agree that complete pipe replacement is the best strategy to eliminate chronic leaks. However, many utilities simply cannot afford the debt payments associated with replacement of all of their leaking pipes. Furthermore, grants for this purpose are scarce these days. Even if there is a possibility of grants, no utility should rely on the possibility of grant funds as their primary capital improvement funding plan. There is just no way to be certain that grants will be available, or if they will cover the full cost of the project. So what can utilities do in this situation? One strategy may be targeted replacement of the leakiest sub-sections of pipe. In determining just which sub-sections of pipe need to be replaced, a utility should use records of the location of previous pipe breaks, data from leak detection specialists, and information about the age and relative condition of pipe. Most engineers or contractors may not choose a project that replaces 1,000 feet of pipe here, 500 feet of pipe over there, and 350 feet of pipe somewhere else, etc. However, in some cases this may be just the right strategy to bring financial sustainability back to the utility. FEW STRaTEgIES ExIST Many large utilities would consider this type of project a routine operations and maintenance (O&M) task. They likely would use previous leak detection data to determine when to replace a short section of pipe versus installing a band on a pipe. Smaller utilities often do not have this luxury. Their O&M budget may be stretched just to afford equipment, labor, and the bands needed to repair leaks in the system. Some sections of chronically leaking pipes may have more bands than pipe. These smaller utilities may not even record the location of leaks. Often their leakage rates continue to increase until they have to replace entire sections of piping, not knowing whether or not there are some good sections in between the leaking ones. Many of these smaller utilities do not have capital replacement reserve savings that can be used for these pipe replacement projects. This leaves them looking for grant funds or loan/grant funding packages from funding agencies such as the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) or the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development (RD) program. It is important to understand that utilities which historically propose replacement projects use sound logic when they suggest replacing an entire section of piping, instead of a dozen or so short leaking sub-sections throughout the distribution system. Projects that replace an entire section of piping work perfectly when the utility can afford the project. This was more often the case in the days when grant funds were more plentiful. However, the belt tightening that is facing utilities and their customers is also affecting those funding agencies that have historically financed these projects. Utilities should no longer count on a significant portion of grant funds for their capital replacement projects. Somehow, these utilities need to find a way to cover at least the majority 31

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Winter 2015

From the President: Performance Evaluation
From the Executive Director: Save the Date!
Professional or Job Holder: Which Will You Be?
Emergencies: Do You Have A Plan?
Finding Your Way
Hearing Protection – Keep Your Employees Safe
Economic Opportunity: USDA Rural Development/Virginia
Rate Setting – It’s Easy?
Chronic Leaks
NRWA Recap
Throwing My Loop: Fresh Water
Booster Club
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
2015-2016 Membership Directory
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
VRWA Members Corner
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Winter 2015