The new water recording meter installed on the west line gave insight into suspected leaks, but it wasn't the insight the Orchard City water committee was hoping for. While the meter gives better accuracy, trustee Dick Kirkpatrick reported, "We definitely have leaks in the system and it's showing as a higher percentage with less use."
Last month's water audit showed 15.7 million gallons input and 9.5 billion gallons billed with 6.2 million gallons remaining. For comparison, the September audit report showed 2.6 million remaining gallons between system input and billing.
October leakage estimates are about 4.6 million gallons, or 29 percent.
While this is a high percentage, town administrator Melissa Oelke pointed out that November 2017 water loss was at 21 percent. As usage decreases, if leaks remain the same then the loss becomes a higher percentage.
The committee discussed leak detection programs to help resolve the issue. Orchard City has leak detection but its reliability is questionable.
Continuing on the topic of water loss, the trustees agreed changes need to be made to the leak responsibility ordinance.
The challenge is that single service lines tapping into the main are often private lines that aren't up to town standards. The 2004 ordinance puts the responsibility for leaks on the owner at the meter, not at the main where they tap in.
"The  resolution has proven to create costs to the town that should not be our cost," commented Trustee Kirkpatrick. They want to change the point of responsibility back to the main line, regardless of where the citizen's meter is.
An additional ordinance change would limit meter access to staff only. Staff would be responsible for maintenance with financial responsibility belonging to the owner. As part of this, the committee discussed curb shut-offs so citizens can still shut off their water until a staff member arrives.
Trustee Kirkpatrick presented a list of six projects. "To continue to fail to address our infrastructure, which is old and aging, is probably not in the best interest of the town," he said.
Because Orchard City has not increased rates annually to keep up with costs, funding for these projects is a challenge. Without an increase, by 2030 funds will be short to even operate the water plant.
The projects are planned to be scattered across a number of years. However, if reserves do not cover the predicted costs then the options are to pay for the projects through a small rate increase or take out a loan and divide payments among citizens.
As for the drought situation, staff commented that no changes will be made until more snow arrives. The town is "still in a big deficit" of about 200,000 gallons.