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How the Water Bureau Celebrates Fix A Leak Week

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It's Fix A Leak Week! While folks are checking their households for leaks, we're working to maintain miles of pipes, fire hydrants, and service lines to find and fix leaks that could occur.
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It’s Fix a Leak Week! Across the country, people are checking their homes and businesses for leaks, and we are too. Here’s how: 

Hidden Leaks 

Even though the Water Bureau proactively replaces miles of older pipes, hundreds of fire hydrants, and hundreds of service lines each year, leaks still happen. While main breaks tend to get a lot of attention, there are many more leaks that we cannot see. Underneath our streets and sidewalks there are less noticeable leaks that we must search for. These leaks can appear on large pipes, the service lines to customer’s meters, hydrants, and where two pipes join. Collectively, these small leaks add up!  

“With over 190,000 service connections and 2,200 miles of main, searching for leaks is a full-time job,” says Chris Redfield, Leak Detection and Maintenance Supervisor. 

Listening for leaks 

Redfield manages our two-person underground leak detective squad. This leak survey team has a goal to search 15 percent of the system each year. That’s 330 miles! The crew will walk from point to point, typically stopping at a fire hydrant, service line or elsewhere on a pipe’s path to listen for leaks. They use specialized acoustic equipment called “listening rods” that allows them to hear leaks on pipes that are not visible above ground. The Leak Survey Crew uses metal rods that when in contact with pipes or hydrants can isolate the sound of leak from other background noise such as traffic.  

Pinpointing the leak 

If a leak is detected, “correlators (equipment used to further isolate the sound of a water leak from surrounding noise) are placed on fire hydrants above and below is the probable area of the leak. Once in place, this equipment pinpoints the location of the leak.  

The leak detection staff team then measures to that suspected point, marks it in the roadway, and a water maintenance team is deployed to repair or replace the leaking section of pipe. Correlating ensures the Water Bureau doesn’t have to tear up any more road than necessary.

A survey crew member marking the location of a leak in a pipe.
A leak survey crew member marks the location of an underground leak after correlating it.

How you can help report water main breaks and leaks 

If you see water running from streets or sidewalks, call the Water Bureau’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874.