By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
“The problem is…sometimes people don’t know they have water leaks,” said Fred Bourger, Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Environmental & Technical Support project manager. “These are ongoing, hidden leaks that may have been wasting water for a very long time. If the leak doesn’t make the surface of the ground wet, you don’t realize it’s there, and yet lots of water is being lost. And if it’s on the ‘customer side’ of the meter, the customer is paying for it.”
LCU is already seeing a good flow of information from its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) upgrades. AMI was implemented by the City of Las Cruces (City) in July 2018, by upgrading and/or retrofitting 28,854 water meters and 18,313 gas meters. Leak detection is part of the water meter upgrade.
“I’ve been sitting down with customers when I get detection alarms,” said Bourger, who monitors the systems at the Utilities administration building and then reaches out.
“I bring my data to the customers and usually conduct a few tests - checking to see if the flow is on when the valve at their meter is turned off, and doing a pressure test,” Bourger said. “That gives us enough indication to call in a plumber to find the leak.”
Dennis Dickey got a front-row seat to the data that came from the new leak detection system and Bourger’s systematic approach to finding the problem. It was Dickey’s sister who received the call from Bourger speculating that she may have a leak. She then asked her brother to come over when Bourger arrived to show them the data.
“He showed us all the data on his computer, and it was fascinating,” Dickey said. “It showed exactly when the water usage went up and how it compared to what was normal for her house. We called the plumber and they came the next morning. Fred showed up that next morning, too, to watch the plumbers.”
It turned out the leak Dickey’s sister had was a broken PVC pipe near a sprinkler. “When they had found the leak, repaired it, Fred immediately checked the flow of the water again and showed us that it had returned to normal rates,” Dickey said. “I’m a believer.”
Bourger has worked directly with almost 30 LCU customers to show them leak detection statistics on the “customer side” of the water meter. Leak detection staff have also identified 105 leaks on the other side of the meter – the “service side” – which is owned and maintained by the City. Sixty of those leaks have already been repaired and the others are scheduled for repair.
Anyone who suspects a water leak can alert Customer Service at 575/541-2111. LCU staff can assess the situation and verify if there is a possible leak. If a leak is confirmed on the “customer side” of the meter, the customer will contact their plumber to make the repair. With proof that the repair has been completed, LCU will review the account for a possible water leak payment adjustment.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
Fred Bourger, Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Environmental & Technical Support project manager, studies data reports made possible by the new AMI water meters.
Note: This story was published in the Las Cruces Bulletin on Dec. 13, 2019.