Behind the Story – Water Main Breaks

by Kevin Crowe | inewsource

In examining some of the problems caused by San Diego’s aging water infrastructure, inewsource primarily examined three sets of data produced by the city.

Search water main breaks in San Diego Neighborhoods

The first set consisted of detailed information on water main breaks, leaks and other system failures. It lists the composition of the pipe that broke, where and when it broke, when it was installed and what kind of work the city had to do to repair it. We used this information to identify clusters of breaks in the city. We have shared it with you by neighborhood here: http://inewsource.webfactional.com/mainbreaks/

inewsource requested that information through the California Public Records Act in July of 2011, and the city fully responded in December.

Mains have been breaking in the city at a pace of just more than 100 per year. In 2010, the city reported 130 main breaks. In 2011, that figure was 96. Jim Fisher, assistant director of Public Utilities, said the city does not measure breaks purely by the numbers, rather by breaks per 100 miles of water main. By this measure, he explained, the number has remained essentially flat for the past eight years.

The second set of data contained water loss information related to breaks and leaks. That data showed that from 2004 through 2011, pipe breaks and leaks sent an estimated 360 million gallons of water into San Diego streets and residents’ homes and businesses. That information was part of the original request for records that we filed with the city in July. The city supplied the final pieces of information in December.

The third set of information detailed costs to the city of claims and lawsuits. The city’s Risk Management Department initially produced this information for us in January 2012. The database included costs back to 2003. We used this data to calculate how much money the city paid out in claims and lawsuits — more than $10 million — resulting from water main breaks. We excluded from the analysis any breaks that were listed as being caused by contractors or other outside sources.

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About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino is a senior reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino at inewsource dot org.