Walla Walla water losses mount

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WALLA WALLA -- City officials estimate they are losing one billion gallons of potable water per year, which is equivalent to 1,514 Olympic-sized swimming pools (50 meters by 25 meters by 2 meters deep).

That's roughly 25 percent of all the potable water generated by the city; the state Department of Health's limit for water loss is 10 percent.

As for sewer water, the science is not as exact, but city officials report that in winter months, when the ground is mostly saturated, nine million gallons of wastewater are treated each day. In summer months, that figure drops to less than half.

So it is a fair assumption that millions of gallons of wastewater are seeping into the ground during the drier months. To make matters worse, city officials report in many cases leaking sewer lines are in close proximity to potable water lines.

So how many sewer and water lines need to be replaced?

In its Infrastructure Sustainability Plan, the Public Works Department reported that 82 percent of the city's water and sewer lines are at failing status. The plan also states that most of the city's water and sewer lines are designed to last between 50 and 75 years, and currently the city has numerous underground lines more than 100 years old.

To exacerbate the problem, at the current rate of funding it would take 215 years to replace the lines, officials report.

City officials also point out that if more work isn't done sooner, the consequences could be fines for not meeting state and federal standards, damage to the aquifer, public health risks and excessive costs due to having to produce 25 percent more potable water than what is needed.On Thursday, the City of Walla Walla will host the first of four public meetings for the proposed Infrastructure Sustainability Plan, held at The Center At The Park, 720 Sprague Street, Jefferson Park, 5:30 p.m. To help our readers know the issues surrounding this plan, the Union-Bulletin is running a series of short articles this week dealing with different aspects of it.

Editor's note

On Thursday, the city of Walla Walla will host the first of four public meetings for the proposed Infrastructure Sustainability Plan, held at The Center At The Park, 720 Sprague Ave., Jefferson Park, 5:30 p.m. To help our readers know the issues surrounding this plan, the Union-Bulletin is running a series of short articles this week dealing with different aspects of it.

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