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Water losses mount

The Park City Public Works Department in late May acknowledged it lost 225 million gallons of water to leaks in 2007, saying officials cannot account for most of the lost water.

The number was up slightly from the year before, when 223.7 million gallons were lost in the same manner. Public Works Department officials claim the amount of water lost in the leaks is within industry standards, and there does not appear to be grave concern in the Park City government with the numbers.

The department presented the numbers to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council in anticipation of a recent meeting about City Hall’s budget. The elected officials plan to increase water rates by 24 percent starting in July.

The leaks were not widely discussed as the water rates were debated. The numbers were contained in an appendix to a broader report about the municipal water system and pricing.

The acknowledgment, though, comes at the start of summer and City Hall’s watering rules, which regulate days and times people on the municipal system are allowed to water, are in effect.

According to City Hall’s numbers:

Sixty service-line leaks in 2007 led to the loss of 12.5 million gallons. Service lines link the water system to buildings.

Ten main-line leaks in 2007 led to the loss of 2.5 million gallons. Main lines stretch between water sources and connection points to the service lines.

Unaccounted for leaks totaled 210 million gallons.

"We have a lot of old lines in town. They will eventually rot to where they have a hole in them," says Kathy Lundborg, the city’s water manager.

Officials calculate the water lost to unaccounted for leaks by comparing how much water the system produces in a year to the amount of water that is billed to all the customers.

City Hall says 13 percent of the water that is produced in a year becomes unaccounted for, but officials say the figure is within industry standards.

Jerry Gibbs, the Public Works director, says the lost 225 million gallons, when considered throughout the system and for a year, are not disconcerting. There are many chances for leaks since the system employs numerous pumping stations to push the water to the higher elevations of Park City, he says.

"That’s not an unreasonable amount," Gibbs says, describing that other domestic water systems as recently as the early 1990s lost half of the water they produced.

He says the volume of water lost each year has remained steady. Still, he has asked the City Council for funding to upgrade the systems that track the water. If the money is approved as part of the ongoing budget talks, the upgrades could be operating by summer 2009, at the earliest, Gibbs says.

They would allow the Public Works Department to pinpoint where in the system the water is lost.

City Hall officials have long worried about the amount of water the municipal system can deliver to Parkites in the summer. Use spikes in the summer, when much of it is used for watering.

People who violate City Hall’s watering rules face fines starting at $50 for violations after a first warning and climbing to $500 for a fifth violation and subsequent ones. The fines would climb to between $150 and $750 starting in July under a plan that is being considered.


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