Where oh where has the water gone?

Public Works Director Casey Sebastian changes out an old water meter for a new one at a Lime Springs residence.

Public Works Director Casey Sebastian changes out an old water meter for a new one at a Lime Springs residence.

By Marcie Klomp
Since Casey Sebastian started working for the City of Lime Springs in April 2012, that has been his goal—to make sure all the water being pumped into the water tower is accounted for and billed out properly. Two-and-a-half years ago, accountability was about 15-20 percent; now it averages 65-70 percent. “Our sales were below the state average,” Sebastian said. “Meter usage/sales was not matching up with what was coming up out of the ground.”

One hundred percent accountability would allow the Public Works Director to know exactly where every drop of water in the water tower has gone and have it billed out accordingly. As it is, 30-35 percent is still being treated but not billed out.

Accountability has gone up, though, and part of that is due to installing new water meters. Sebastian talked to one customer who said his meter had not been changed out since he moved to town 40 years ago! Just as when we get older, we tend to slow down, so it is with equipment. When water meters get old, they will always slow down, but never speed up!

Sebastian and helper Ed Hampe are about half done in getting new water meters installed in residents’ homes. So far they have 130 replaced out of a total of 260.

Sebastian has made it a main goal to work on accountability, and he is happy to see the number rising. When he started working for the city, water usage was at 150,000-160,000 gallons per day. Now it is about 100,000 less, at 60,000-64,000 per day. That saves the city about $400-500 in electricity each month, not to mention using less chlorine, etc.

Water and sewer is a business; if you’re in business and losing money, wouldn’t you try to find a way to fix it or keep going in the losing battle? How long would you be able to support it and stay in business if you don’t do any up-keep?

Once all the meters have been changed out, Sebastian can calculate if there are bigger problems in the water system, such as leaks or breaks.

A leak was recently fixed at the Brian Bakken residence. Numbers showed it saved about 5,000 gallons of water per day!
The new meters the city has purchased have a radio read onthem. Where it used to take employess about 12 hours per month to read meters by walking up to each house, once they are all in place, it will take less than an hour.

Another benefit of the meters has already been realized by Howard-Winneshiek. The meters will give a readout as to when water is being used. Sebastian found five-six gallons of water was used per hour at the school—even in the middle of the night, indicating a leak. Once fixed, this will save the district money. The same data can be tabulated for individual homes.

By updating the system and trying to get accountability as close to 100 percent as possible, it will show the state Lime Springs is trying to improve. Sebastian explained, “The state will see that we are trying to help ourselves and not just asking for a handout.”

Water and sewer are supposed to be self-sustaining. Sebastian is trying to make that happen, so next time the water tower needs repainting, the money will be there. Need a new aerator? The money will be there. Need a new well? The money will be there.

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