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State help is on the way for Fort Oglethorpe to identify the cause of leaks and losses from the city's water system.
In 2012, those monthly losses ranged from 34 percent to 52 percent of the water the city buys from Tennessee American Water, City Councilman Clay Kissner said.
"Something's got to be done," Kissner said. "We can't be losing about half the water we're purchasing."
Director of Public Works Phil Parker applied for assistance from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to test customers' water meters and perform leak detection on a section of water line.
"It's not a dollar amount," Parker said. "It's technical assistance where they'll come in and help us evaluate our water system."
He's still waiting to hear the status of the technical assistance application from the state agency.
The request for assistance comes on the heels of a first-ever water loss audit that Fort Oglethorpe submitted to the state after attending a free training program paid for by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.
The audits, which have standards for addressing water loss and leak detection, are required under the Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010, authority spokeswoman Nicole Linton said.
"$200,000 not accounted for"
Kissner came up with his water-loss figures by comparing the amount of water the city buys from Tennessee American Water with the amount it bills customers.
Based on that, the highest percentage loss came in March 2012, when the city lost 52 percent, or about 16 million gallons, of purchased water. Kissner figures the city lost around $200,000 last year on water it could not account for.
"I would say the majority of it is probably [from] old pipes," he said. The city swimming pool at Gilbert Stephenson Park is losing water, Kissner said, but that loss is just a fraction of the overall amount he figures goes missing.
Parker, who's been in charge of the city's water system for years, doesn't think the city's water loss is as high as Kissner's figures suggests.
"Fifty percent would be a tremendous water loss," he said. "I don't think it's a physical loss."
Parker said the city keeps 2 million gallons in reserve and has 110 pounds of water pressure in its lines -- neither of which would be possible if the system was sustaining a large water loss.
He figures the difference between the amount of water the city buys and what it sells could be from things such as water meter inaccuracies and discrepancies in billing cycles.
"I think there's a lot of factors," Parker said.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.