SAWS reveals 9 billion gallons of water wasted last year

SBG Photo

SAN ANTONIO - 9.2 billion gallons of water literally went down the drain last year for a total of 12% of the water produced by San Antonio Water Systems. It's the equivalent of almost 14,000 Olympic sized swimming pools

"I think it's horrible because water is precious and it's not going to become any more abundant," said Meredith McGuire with the Alamo Sierra Club.

The cost to pump and treat the 9.2 billion gallons that was wasted is $40 million dollars.

According to SAWS Conservation Director Karen Guz, the majority of that is just the cost of doing business, as the infrastructure repairs needed to mitigate that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We think every gallon that leaves our system is significant," Guz said.

SAWS has 7,000 miles of main and more than 650,000 primary connection points and as a result water loss is inevitable in the form of water main breaks, loose connections, leaks and seepage.

"We used to check 20% of our system proactively every year and now we're taking that to 50%," Guz said.

Remote bots do a lot of the underground leak detection work and during hot summer months when leaks are more frequent, there is a triage system for repairs.

SAWS is hoping to reduce water loss by 3% over the next 3 to 5 years.

"I think that's not ambitious enough," McGuire said. "I think that they've been working on this for a few years and they should have a better sense of what they could do quickly to save some of that water."

McGuire, who studies water management, has recently highlighted what Melbourne, Australia has accomplished, after they reduced water loss from nearly 9% to 5.4%.

"The impressive thing about Melbourne was that their water loss figures were already less than 9%.

Guz explained there is no true national average because nationwide participation in these audits is not mandatory in most states.

"The state of Texas is ahead of the rest of the country in being one of the few states that requires a water loss audit," Guz said.

While the Water Development Board does have ways to incentivize some of the water systems, there are no fines or consequences for audits that show significant loss.

"It is accurate to say that SAWS goes above and beyond any requirement for water conservation and for water loss management," Guz said.

The 9.2 billion gallons in water lost, does not include water lost through homeowner leaks.

"I think every household ought to be thinking like Melbourne, and say we're all in this together, how can we protect our water?"

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