No doubt that the torrential Valentine’s Day rainstorm caused significant damage to local highways, roads and structures. But this winter’s weather terror was not limited to rain. The unusually low temperatures and their duration caused many water pipes to crack or break. Depending on the flow through pipes, these leaks created significant monetary loss for local water districts and homeowners.
At the March 13, Pine Cove Water District meeting, General Manager Jerry Holldber reported that water production in February was nearly 40 percent greater than in February 2018.
This dramatic production increase he attributed to the number of water leaks throughout the district in customer’s homes. He has identified at least 27 known leaks. District staff had to shut off water at 15 homes to avoid either substantial damage or more than had already occurred. In one house, the water was coming from the second floor.
So far, he has not found any leaks in the district’s pipe system.
Holldber estimated that the pipeline leaks in January and February have cost the district about 1.2 million gallons of water. At one private house, the leak was flowing about 24 gallons per minute.
But PCWD was not alone trying to quell the leaks from escaping water. Victor Jimenez, general manager of Fern Valley Water District, said he was dealing with similar problems throughout his district.
For the January and February billing period, FVWD’s water production was nearly 7 million gallons, which was 2.2 million more than the same period in 2018.
“We had seven weather-related leaks, both the district’s and customer’s leaks in January and February. An additional 15 to 20 homes with frozen pipes which were not our responsibility, but we assisted with thawing them out,” Jimenez said, describing the water damage in Fern Valley.
The storm also severely damage Chipmunk Road, which provides necessary access to one of FVWD’s tanks. Consequently, district staff “… cleared out the damaged asphalt and replaced the undermined soil on Chipmunk Road with approximately 18 truckloads of class 2 base.”
Besides the loss of water, which Jimenez estimates to be about 500,000 gallons, the direct costs were $15,000 to $20,000 in labor and materials to remedy storm damages.
February’s water production of 6.6 million gallons at Idyllwild Water District was 20 percent greater than February 2018. Together, the combined IWD production for January and February was nearly 2.7 million gallons, or 24 percent more than the first two months of 2018.
IWD General Manager Mike Creighton acknowledged some leaks, but said he had not reviewed the situation sufficiently to comment on the extent and location of any major leaks. He planned to report about the situation at the IWD March 20 meeting.
Because of the amount of snow on the ground, and snow berms created from street plowing and driveway shoveling, Jimenez was going to delay the normal period for reading meters. However, after a discussion with Office Manager Jessica Priefer, the district proceeded with its meter reading efforts.
This took more than the normal time because so many were buried. One was damaged from a vehicle (not the district’s) running over it in the snow. Reading the meters was beneficial because it helped identify some homes with inordinate water usage.
“There were quite a few, and some with pretty substantial [usage],” Jimenez said. “There were a lot of frozen pipes.” He even mentioned that one of the FVWD customers incurred a similar leak to the PCWD customer. Staff saw dripping from a second floor and immediately turned off the valve to limit interior damage.
And the district suffered damage because a sensor froze or clogged, causing a water tank to overflow.
Locating leaks, private and district, turning off water valves, and repairing district pipes cost PCWD about $32,000, Holldber estimated. This is more than 400 hours of staff time.
All the water districts encourage customers to shut off their water whenever they leave the Hill for a significant time. This is especially important during the winter.