Dear Editor:

If you drive a car that is poorly assembled and it gets 40 percent less gas mileage than a new model, in a perfect world, what would you pay to increase the gas mileage so it is only 20 percent less mileage than new?

One makes $35,000/year. Gasoline costs $4/gallon and one drives 15,000 miles/year. The car gets 20 mpg now. Fixing the engine will get one 26 mpg (20 percent less than perfect world). So one can save $680/year by fixing the engine to get 26 mpg instead of 20 mpg. Great.

But wait fixing the engine costs $10,000. I don’t have $10,000 (I only make $35,000/year) to fix the engine so I will go out and get a loan. Interest only on the $10K at 8 percent would be $800/year. Now that does not make sense … spend $800/year to save $680/year.

Oh, well I will just buy a new car for $35,000. Gee how much a year will that cost? What $4,000/year. That does not sound too good either. I think I will make a plan to find the reasons the mileage is poor.

Reality — PAWSD has 300 miles of distribution piping with a rubber gasket approximately every 20 feet — that is about 79,000 gaskets or possible leak points.

So lets replace 10 percent of the pipes every year with new. Ten years to get the leak rate down to ideally 5-10 percent. 30 miles of pipe/year at $250,000/mile average = $7.5 million/year.

Oh we don’t have that money, I guess we need to borrow $75M over the next 10 years to replace our pipes. Oops that sounds like Dry Gulch money … ?

But wait PAWSD current cost for water lost (made but not billed) is $90,000/year (calculated by AWWA method). So PAWSD is going to spend $7.5 million to save $90,000 each year … ?

I think I am going to keep driving my car and make fixes as I can find them.

Reality — The substandard distribution system (unless we replace all with new) will unlikely get better than 15-20 percent lost water. So the best one can hope is to bring down the lost water cost to $40,000/year.

PAWSD current program to find leaks is approximately $150,000/year, which at best will save $50,000/year … e.g. in May, leak detection company Wach is coming to find leaks.

The good news is that reducing leaks to 20 percent will push out the need for new facilities for many, many years in the future.

Burt Adams

This story was posted on April 17, 2014.