Main Breaks: The Fault of Mother Nature?


The Department of Water and Power issues a report on why L.A. saw so many water main breaks in the past few months. It's inconclusive, but a combination of corroded old iron and unusually high reservoir levels and pressure are likely to blame.

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The L.A. Times's account stresses the nature part of the story:

Corroded pipe also is more susceptible to breaking when subjected to minor increases in pressure. A cluster of leaks in July and August, for example, coincided with an increase in reservoir elevation -- and a corresponding increase in static pressure of about 4 pounds per square inch -- at the Lower Franklin Reservoir.

The report said the pressure was still "within the normal operating range," but that it could have been enough to stress already aging pipes.

The report did seem to debunk a theory, discussed earlier here at City of Angles, that the city's use restrictions on sprinklers might have created days where too much water was being used at once.

The Daily News's reporting on the same study doesn't talk about the reservoir angle, but does discuss citizen anger at the DWP's pipe replacement strategies:

the DWP had focused primarily replacing pipes only when they ruptured. "However, that replacement rate corresponded to a replacement cycle for water mains of well over 400 years," the report said. "This means it would take over 400 years to replace all the pipes in the DWP water system."

The new program will replace 200,000 feet of pipes each year between now and 2012 - reducing the replacement cycle to 180 years.....

The report noted that the utility has added staff, but needs to do more - a factor which might cost ratepayers more money to repair all the pipes that are needed. The report drew criticism from Jack Humphreville, who serves on the Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee of the utility. "The problem that we and all the public have is the lack of credibility of the DWP," Humphreville said. "A report like this just shows, again, why we need a ratepayer advocate at the DWP."

In other water news this week, the L.A. Times has an interesting summation of the state's new comprehensive water use and regulation plan, in which:

more than $1 billion of the money is earmarked for projects that have little or nothing to do with quenching the state's thirst.

The bond proposal includes funding for bike paths, museums, visitor centers, tree planting, economic development and the purchase of property from land speculators and oil companies -- all in the districts of lawmakers whose key votes helped it pass the Legislature.

Earlier City of Angles blogging on the new state water plan.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Chim Chim. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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