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
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 businesses.
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 the system.
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
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