Olean, New York has seen its share of unaccounted water, and the city is stepping in.
Olean city officials have said that every two of five gallons of water has been unaccounted for. Back in October of 2017, The Office of the State Comptroller issued a report that said cities who have unaccounted for water that are able to lower those number would be able to cut costs.
“Water leaks, broken pipes and aging infrastructure are costing local governments millions of dollars annually,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “Across New York, my audits have revealed infrastructure problems, poor budget practices and a lack of long-term planning are straining municipal finances and increasing costs for taxpayers. If these problems aren’t addressed, the issues plaguing water systems will only get worse.”
Ten percent of homes see water leaks that can waste 90 or more gallons of water a day. Of the 161 audits of local governments on water systems that were reviewed, 22 of them cited water loss to be a problem. This review said that an estimated $2.2 million could be saved if the problems were fixed. The problems were attributed to leaking or broken underground water pipes.
This report, however, didn’t actually include Olean. But Olean officials say that unaccounted water is a problem for them as well. The city’s water report for 2016 says the total water production was 925.27 million gallons. Of that 925.27 million gallons, 530.18 million was metered and delivered. However, around 395 million gallons were actually unmetered.
Mayor Bill Aiello spoke with the Olean Times Herald, saying, “To get that below 30 percent would be realistic. In a perfect society, we’d have nothing, but that’s not realistic.”
Over the past few years, the city’s water use had actually not been recorded.
Bob Ring, director of the city Department of Public Works, said the leaks usually come from iron pipes that had been damaged due to season changes and old age. Finding these leaks can actually be pretty hard, so they’re not always an easy problem to prevent.
“If it’s not coming up to the surface, we don’t know about it. Sometimes we can hear it by putting a machine on a valve and listening,” Ring said.
City officials have a long-term plan that they are working on to combat the issue. The city has been actively replacing water valves throughout the city and has also been replacing leaking fire hydrants.