One-third of town’s water unaccounted for
Almost one-third of the water pumped out of Twisp’s wells is not reaching customers, according to a report from the town’s Public Works Department.
The report, presented to the Twisp Town Council on Sept. 10, shows the town has lost 32% of its water so far in 2019, after accounting for water taken from hydrants to fight structure fires. The most likely suspects for the water loss are undetected leaks in the town’s water system. Additionally, some of the loss may be due to faulty water meters that aren’t recording water use correctly, Public Works Director Andrew Denham said.
The proportion of water that is unaccounted for should decrease by the end of the year because water loss peaks during irrigation season, Denham said.
“Hopefully, by the end of this (year), the final numbers will be closer to 25 to 28%,” he said.
Even so, 2019 is shaping up to be the worst year for water loss during his five years with the town, Denham said. Water loss is more typically around 20% of the total water taken from the town’s wells.
Years ago, before Denham’s term in Public Works, the town would show 40% or greater water loss, the director said. Still, a loss around 25% warrants investigation. The state Department of Health asks municipalities to keep water loss below 10%, or 20% for jurisdictions with less than 500 connections. If municipalities can reduce their losses, they can continue to grow in population without needing to go through the uncertain process of seeking more water rights.
Not over limit
The unusually large amount of lost water does not threaten to push Twisp over its water-rights limit, Denham said. The town worked out a deal four years ago with the state Department of Ecology to acquire additional water rights from the Methow Valley Irrigation District.
By definition, the lost water does not mean higher water bills for residents or businesses. All of that water is unaccounted for because it isn’t reaching customers’ meters.
Twisp officials began looking for possible leaks in the system with a check of TwispWorks, the town’s biggest single customer, on Sept. 11.
“The compound didn’t show any leakage,” Denham said on Friday (Sept. 13).
So, what exactly might account for Twisp’s lost water?
Leaks in water mains that aren’t catastrophic can go undetected. Evergreen Rural Water of Washington was to visit Twisp on Wednesday (Sept. 18) with special equipment to check more systemwide for leaks, Denham said. Evergreen Rural Water provides services to small municipalities at no cost.
The town has been replacing old water mains, including this year on Canyon Street, but several water mains are still in place that have been in service since 1939 or 1949, Denham said.
Older meters that no longer record water use correctly could also be responsible for the water loss. While meters are gradually being replaced around town, Denham said he is seeking funding to replace all of them “sooner, rather than 10 or 12 years from now.”