As California tries to save water during its drought, researchers have found that Los Angeles’ main water suppliers don’t know if or where their pipes might be leaking — but technology might be the solution.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a report this week that said water agencies in the state are unable to keep close track of how much their own pipes are leaking. In fact, six of the 10 surveyed agencies did not distinguish between water leaks or unauthorized water use. Many of the agencies, according to the report, also don’t follow best practices for leak detection.
“It appears that most retailers don’t think of minimizing leaks and breaks as a conversation responsibility, despite the cost and scarcity of water in California,” said Madelyn Glickfeld, UCLA’s Water Resources Group director. “States such as Georgia, Washington and Texas actively encourage and train water agencies in conducting water system audits, but not California.”
In neighboring Nevada, the Las Vegas Valley Water District is testing a system that uses sensors and sound equipment to collect information on water pipes.
“Having this out in the field and being able to collect data consistently between two points practically at any time gives us some flexibility that way,” Charles Scott, the water district’s asset management division manager, told StateScoop. “By putting these monitors in, we’re basically being able to monitor the pipe and detect small leaks.”
The UCLA report note that technology to assist in water pipe management is available, but it looks like water authorities in Los Angeles may not be using it.
“Los Angeles County seems to lack a proactive strategy,” Kartiki Naik, UCLA’s staff research associate for the university’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, said. “Only three out of the 10 retailers that we surveyed used available leak-detection technology to prevent leaks. Only six had a program to replace a certain amount of old pipe each year and their maintenance schedules would take about 100-330 years to replace every pipe.”
Naik also said the state needs to catch up with other states and water retailers by using best water management practices, including through water monitoring technology.