Today, water utilities across the United States are taking part in the annual “Imagine a Day Without Water” campaign to highlight the critical importance of reliable access to clean water in our lives and the investment in infrastructure that is necessary to protect this valuable resource.

Here at OCWA–Central New York’s Water Authority, we have instituted a variety of proactive initiatives to ensure that our water remains safe, reliable and affordable, and that our customers hopefully never have to Imagine a Day Without Water.

One of those initiatives is our leak detection program.  It is somewhat unique for a water utility the size of OCWA to assign dedicated personnel whose sole job is to proactively search for and identify leaks in the water system.   But OCWA considers its year-round leak detection program to be an integral part of its overall commitment to maintain the reliability of our 2,200+ mile water system by identifying leaks before they become major main breaks.

OCWA’s two-person leak detection team works tirelessly to identify leaks via a system-wide survey process.  Every two years we survey all major components of our system.  The leak detectors use specially designed equipment to listen for leaks mainly at the locations of our hydrants and valves.  They also work closely with our Operations Department who can direct them to specific areas based upon unusual increases in water flow identified by our system-wide computerized monitoring system.

Much of the work of leak detectors occurs at night when background noise such as street traffic is lowest, but the staff is available 24/7 to respond to emergencies as needed.  Our team also spends a good deal of time identifying and fixing inoperable valves.

A recent example of the key role our leak detection crew plays in ensuring the continued reliability of our water system involved the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District.  The OCWA Operations Department identified higher than usual water flow in the vicinity of one of the district’s elementary schools, so we dispatched our leak detection crew to see if a leak was causing the situation.  The team ultimately found a relatively significant leak of 60-80 gallons per minute in a service line close to the entrance of the school.  The crew provided the exact location of the leak (immediately below the flag pole in front of the school) to the district so it could fix the problem and continue uninterrupted service to the school.

The accompanying photos show our leak detectors operating an Aqua-Scope amplified acoustic detector, as well as a digital leak detector which electronically filters out background noise.