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City looks for ways to reduce water losses

Cairo officials say they are baffled by the dramatic rise in the amount of water losses, which have increased over the last two years by about 20 percent.
After making significant improvement in 2011 when water losses were reduced to approximately 10 percent, the current difference between the amount of water pumped out of the ground and what is sold to residential and commercial customers is nearly 30 percent.
In August, the city pumped and treated 50,866,00 gallons, but only sold 35,472,000 gallons. The city can account for approximately 750,000 gallons of the loss, but the remaining 14,644,000 gallons is a mystery.
Similar losses have been reported all year except in February when the losses dipped to 9,727,000 gallons.
“Not matter how you present it, it amounts to a lot of loss and unaccounted for water. I take it personally because it is my department and I try to take pride in what I do,” Public Works Director Raymond Stokes told the city council Monday night.
Stokes, who begins his 40th year of service to the city in December added, “We are nowhere close to where I want to be on loss and unaccounted for.”
Over the last seven years, 2,549 meters have been replaced by public works crews to retire slow or malfunctioning meters. The cost of those replacements has amounted to $389,226.58, according to Stokes.
“If we hadn’t spent that money, where would we be today? We’ve spent a lot of money, and I’m not happy with the results, but I keep thinking where would we be if we hadn’t spent the money. We’ve got 120 miles of water main in the city. That’s a lot to look after,” Stokes said.
In the past 12 months, Stokes’ crews have repaired 58 water services; repaired 39 two-inch mains; repaired six (6) six-inch and eight-inch mains; repaired or replaced 10 hydrants; changed out 71 water meters; repaired 104 cut cords on meters; repaired 40 leaking water meters; and conducted 999 utility locates.
Stokes said the amount of water pumped from the city’s wells may be inaccurate, but the master meter at the #2 water plant cannot be replaced without shutting down the entire plant.
The city is preparing to construct a new water treatment plant and ground-level storage tank at Cairo Municipal Airport where two high performing wells have been dug.
Stokes explained that until that plant can be put on line, the city is unable to shut down the #2 water plant for much needed maintenance including the replacement of the master meter.
According to the public works director, the master meter has been in place since 1973.
Stokes said he wants to get the city’s losses back down to the 12 to 15 percent range, which he had achieved in mid 2011.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said that the 15 percent water loss is good and consulting engineer Stacy Watkins said that a 15 percent loss is typical for most cities he works with in south Georgia.
Stokes used an illustration to show councilmen the impact of the current level of losses. Based on 14.6 million gallons of unaccounted for water, that is 472,387 gallons per day or 328 gallons per minute every hour.
Although that is a lot of water, Watkins pointed out that if every joint in the city’s system had a small “drip, drip, drip” leak that would add up very quickly.
“What bothers me is that it shot up real quick and it has stayed there,” Stokes said in reference to the water losses. “It’s like we are pumping seven or eight days a month for nothing,” he added.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas also noted that every gallon of water pumped out of the ground is having to be treated.
“If we weren’t having to treat all that extra water, it wouldn’t be so bad,” Douglas said.
Stokes said that he and his department have identified small leaks, but no “10 million gallon leaks.”
“I’m almost to the point I don’t know what to do,” Stokes said.
The additional water is not entering the city’s wastewater treatment plant based on the amount of wastewater being treated monthly, according to the public works director.
Stokes told the council his department would continue to seek to identify leaks and make repairs where necessary. With this much water unaccounted for, Stokes said it should be easy to find but, so far, the public works department has been unsuccessful.
“We got it down before and we will continue to work and try to get it back down again,” Stokes said.

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