The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

September 2, 2013

Nearly 25 percent of state water supply lost

PSC filings show that 17 billion gallons were unaccounted for in ’12

CHARLESTON — Nearly 25 percent of the water leaving West Virginia’s water plants disappeared even before it reached faucets last year, according to filings with the state Public Service Commission.

About 17 billion gallons went unaccounted for in fiscal year 2012, vanishing somewhere in a system of overflowing tanks and a maze of leaky pipes and gaskets.

Nearly 65 percent of the 395 water utilities in the state are not compliant with the state regulatory standards for acceptable amounts of water loss. PSC standards require that utilities’ “unaccounted for” lost water is no more than 15 percent of the total water pumped.

While more than 30 percent of the water that leaves water plants is lost, utilities know where about 6 percent of the lost water goes — identified leaks, pipe flushing and fire departments.

The issue remains a balancing act for water utilities, which must weigh the cost of the lost water with the cost of making repairs to aging water systems, some of which have pipes that are 75 to 100 years old.

“If you’re in an area that has very difficult topography and it’s a very old system, obviously it’s going to be extremely expensive to get down to 15 percent for some of those utilities,” Susan Small, communications director for the PSC, said. “Big system overhauls cost something, too. It’s up to the utility to determine what the cost effectiveness of each repair that they want to make is.”

Regulators don’t normally deal too much with the unaccounted-for water rates unless utilities ask to increase their rates, Small said.

“When a utility would come and file for a rate increase, they would be asked to explain if they had an excess of unaccounted-for water,” Small said. “It’s all done on a case-by-case basis — there’s no usual or always — but it’s up to the utility to conform with our rules and to supply safe and reasonably priced drinking water.”

The state’s largest water utility, West Virginia American Water’s rate of unaccounted-for water was 28 percent in fiscal 2012. The company serves 288 communities, including Charleston and Huntington, in 15 counties in West Virginia and pumps more than 18 billion gallons of water per year — five times more than the state’s second-largest water utility, the Morgantown Utility Board.

Laura Jordan, a spokeswoman for West Virginia American, said the company surveyed more than 2,300 miles of water mains in 2012 and repaired more than 3,200 leaks.

Jordan pointed to the need to weigh the cost of lost water versus the cost of making repairs.

“Our company is committed to providing value to our customers by operating as efficiently as possible at the lowest cost,” Jordan wrote in an email, “and water loss is an area where efforts must balance between costs of water production and costs to reduce loss.”

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • W.Va. AG court filings: Dismiss gun law question

    The attorney general says a court challenge should be dismissed over whether West Virginians can bring guns to city recreational facilities that hold school events.
    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s filings Thursday argue the city of Charleston shouldn’t receive court guidance on how to implement a state gun law.

    April 18, 2014

  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

  • Spill company president ‘bears no fault’

    The president of Freedom Industries “bears no fault” for a West Virginia chemical spill that spurred a water-use ban for up to 10 days for 300,000 people, his lawyer says in a court filing.
    On Friday, Freedom President Gary Southern withdrew his application to get paid for work he already did during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. He also wanted Freedom and its insurance to cover his legal fees related to the Jan. 9 spill.

    April 5, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads