City water goes missing


About 30 percent unaccounted for

Over the past few years, a substantial amount of water has gone missing in the city of Madras.

From 2009-2012, the city did not receive compensation for about 30 percent of water used in the city. The city purchased a total of 119,670,100 cubic feet of water from Deschutes Valley Water District, but only sold 89,623,185 cubic feet — a difference of more than 30 million cubic feet.

The loss was discovered by Hayes McCoy, of Redmond, the city's engineering consultant, who was hired by the city to update the city's water master plan, which is required by the state.

Hayes gathered sales records from both the city of Madras and DVWD, which sells the water to the city. "I noticed there was a bit of discrepancy between what was being sold to the city and what the city was able to sell," he said.

In November, he discussed the issue with Jeff Hurd, Madras public works director, and then presented his report to the Madras City Council in February.

Hayes doesn't believe that the difference is caused by only one factor.

"I think it’s a combination of issues," he said. "Some of the water that’s unaccounted for is used by the city itself; most of that would be irrigating city parks."

Currently, the city is selling about 70.5 percent of the water it purchases to consumers.

"We used some estimates based off similar usage, and we can estimate that 7.1 percent is municipal use," Hayes continued. "That leaves 22.4 percent."

"Unaccounted water is primarily caused by leaking pipes, water system flushing, firefighting, improperly calibrated meters, and unauthorized use," he said.

"Losses like this are not unheard of," said Hayes, noting that the state requires water providers to reduce unaccounted water to 15 percent. "The city is a little over and should try to get to that threshold."

In order to lower the percentage of unaccounted water, Hayes recommends that the city investigate where the loss is coming from, discuss options to reduce the loss, and then implement those changes.

"Public works actively repairs leaks in the city’s water system when they encounter them," he said. "Water leakage in pipes can be tested by isolating a section of water pipe and conducting a simple pressure test."

By minimizing water loss, Hayes estimates that the city could save from $10,000-$15,000 per year.

At its March 11 meeting, the Madras City Council approved the water master plan, which must now be submitted to the Oregon Health Authority.

In the plan, Hayes also recommends that the city use its own wells to supplement water purchased from DVWD. The city has two wells, one that is 415 feet deep, and another that is 800 feet deep, but neither has been used since 2007, except for maintenance and testing.

"The infrastructure is already in place and producing water will save the city some money," he said. "Additionally, I believe frequent use of the wells will naturally include frequent upkeep, monitoring, and maintenance of the pumps and pipes that go along with normal use."