Marana Water News: Repairing Those Pesky Leaks

Seeing a hydrant spraying into the air, or water running down the middle of a street are both gut-wrenching sights for any water customer or water professional. Unfortunately, these happen more frequently than we would like here at Marana Water. Repairing water main leaks is part of the work done by our distribution crew. Notification of the leak and a quick response are both important to reducing the water lost from the leak.

Leak in a Marana neighborhood

There are several reasons a water line could break; time, weather, landscaping, poor soil conditions, or public damage. Major water leaks can develop over time from a small pinhole or crack. General wear and tear, shifting ground, and the age of the line can lead to corrosion of the pipe or loosening of the fittings.

Similar to residential lines, Marana Water lines are not immune to the effects of weather or rogue tree roots in our lines. Seasonal weather changes bring the potential for cracks that lead to leaks. Poor soil conditions might not be the first thing thought of when determining a risk for leaks, but soils that are high in chloride content can lead to corrosion of pipes from the outside. This corrosion can cause a leak or potential water contamination. One of the world leaders in corrosion control, NACE International, has identified sandy soils as less corrosive than clay soils. For more information on NACE International, click here.

The final potential cause of a leak is damage. Large trucks that drive over or park on water meters and construction projects that fail to locate water lines prior to beginning work are two examples of external factors damaging the water system. When preparing for a construction project, contact Arizona 811 to be sure all utility lines are properly marked. Arizona 811 works with professional excavators and homeowners to meet Arizona's "call before you dig" statute requirements. Click here to learn more about Arizona 811. Be sure to bookmark their site for any future construction projects.

When a line does break, water will flow along the path of least resistance, which means that the leak might be farther up the line than where the water appears on the surface.

Once a leak has been reported or identified, Marana Water gets to work. We too need to reach out to Arizona 811 to identify all utilities in the area of the leak. Gas, electric, sewer, cable and telephone lines may all be nearby the area of the leak, and we want to be cautious of damage to these lines while working to repair our mains. Once the utilities are identified, our operators get to work finding the source of the water leak. They search for the source of the water by turning valves, which help identify the segment of the line that is broken. Once the leak has been found, the repair process begins.

Depending on the extent of the leak, a basic wrap of the pipe will stop the flows. However, there are some leaks that require complete replacement of a segment of pipe. In the event of a much larger leak, the entire service line might need to be replaced. Our distribution team works to make these repairs with as little impact as possible on the water customers.

A completed leak repair.

As can be expected, there could be a water outage while we work to repair a leak. Typically, the office or our field staff will inform those customers they might be out of water, and an estimated time the water service will return. Again, the operators do their best to act as quickly as possible, but the damaged lines need to be repaired safely and the water tested properly to meet safety requirements. Hopefully, the only impact a customer would see is a drop in water pressure.

There are many ways Marana Water works to attempt to prevent leaks. We monitor water pressure routinely, which helps to identify any potential leaks in the system. We also compare water that was billed to the customers versus water that was pumped from the wells. This is called “lost and unaccounted for water.” If there is a large, inexplicable discrepancy between these two values, it could be an indicator of a leak in the system.  Finally, we do our best to identify our lines on any construction project. By marking these lines, we are working to avoid any potential damage from construction projects.

Leaks are a part of life in the water industry, but here at Marana Water we do everything possible to mitigate issues related to leaks. The water lost during these incidents is a small percentage of what is required to run the entire system. It is important to note that the department “lost and unaccounted for water” amount is substantially lower than the amount the state allows. This is another example of Marana Water staff working hard each day to ensure water safety and reliability for our customers.

Should there be a leak, please call the office at (520) 382-2570, or the afterhours line at (520) 235-4381.