Leaky pipes create heavy water loss, cost for Detroit
U.S. Water News Online
DETROIT -- Gallons of water leaking from water pipes in
the 126 communities served by Detroit water are costing residents
millions of dollars.
Detroit-area residents are paying an estimated $23
million this year for water that never reaches homes and businesses.
More than 35 billion gallons of fresh, clean water leaks from Detroit
water pipes each year, according to water department officials.
The water loss is not good news, but ``that's the
reality in a water system that is this large and this old,'' said George
Ellenwood, public affairs manager for the Detroit Water and Sewerage
In recent documents, Detroit water officials claim older
pipes in the 3,700-mile-long water delivery network ``continue to serve
patrons just fine'' and contend ``the level of unaccounted-for water is
The city of Detroit charges suburbs for pumping fresh
water to each community's boundary. From there, each suburb is
responsible for building and maintaining all water lines to homes and
Experts say Detroit's leaks are relatively normal, but
say officials could make the system more efficient.
Ken Brothers, a leading water-loss prevention consultant
to the American Water Works Association, estimates the amount of fresh
water unaccounted for because of leaky pipes and bad meters ranges from
10 percent to 40 percent of all the water pumped in the United States
and around the world.
Detroit loses 17 percent of the water it pumps through
Pipes in many systems, including Detroit's, date back
generations. Many were made in the World War II era, when the best
materials went to the war effort, not water distribution, Brothers said.
The lost water is reflected in bills paid by every
household whose water comes from the Detroit system.
Detroit has raised water rates for all city and suburban
customers five times in the past seven years. The department is in the
middle of a $7 billion capital improvement program, ``but replacing the
whole system would cost billions and billions of dollars,'' Ellenwood
said. ``It would be totally unreasonable to tear it all up and start