Regional water utilities in California had to call on backup water supply plans after a major water pipeline burst in San Bruno late last month, spilling millions of gallons of water.
“The pipeline, known as San Andreas Pipeline No. 2, is part of the Hetch Hetchy Water System and serves three Peninsula water agencies,” Bay City News reported, citing the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
“Crews were finally able to cap it 13 hours later after diverting the water, which comes from the Crystal Springs Reservoir. You can fill 20,000 bathtubs with one million gallons of water; now imagine 15 million gallons. The amount lost represents 20 percent of the water that serves San Francisco in a day,” ABC7 reported.
Deborah Chilvers, a spokesperson for the SFPUC, blamed the rupture on aging infrastructure.
“It appears that age is the cause of the break. This pipe was built around 1927,” she said, per ABC7.
The rupture was not immediately sealed because addressing the leak would have prevented water from reaching customers and fire hydrants.
“It would have depressurized the system all the way down the line, so all of the communities that were fed off this pipeline would no longer have had water and it’s not only your home and drinking water, it’s all of those hydrants on the corner of every street,” Tyrone Jue, SFPUC spokesperson said per ABC7.
Maintaining a flowing system is important for water quality. “If the water gets depressurized then the system has to be chlorinated again, so you need that chlorine residual in the pipes to keep the water quality where it needs to be,” Jue said.
Water loss remains a major problem in California even amid the crushing drought.
Reinhard Sturm, a member of the American Water Works Association Water Loss Control Committee and a consultant to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, explained the dilemma to the Daily Democrat.
“There will always be a minimum amount of leakage,” he said. “You can try to get to the technical minimum, but the money has to be available to do that, and it has to come from somewhere.”
The result? California utilities are as leaky as companies in any other state.
“Some utilities in the Northern California area had the worst leakage in recent years. The city of Sacramento lost 135 gallons per service connection per day — more than enough daily water for the average Angeleno — according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council’s 2012 data, the latest available. Service connections are hookups to either homes or commercial buildings. The statewide average loss per service connection in recent years was 49 gallons,” the report said.
“In Davis, a city pool has a leak losing between 6,000 and 7,000 gallons a day. In LA, 20 million gallons gushed down Sunset Boulevard,” KFBK reported.