In the past few years, the City of Portland has made tremendous strides in improving the rate of water loss in the city. For water customers, better efficiency in how the City delivers water allows city leaders to keep water rates low. In fact, Portland continues to provide some of the lowest water rates in the area.
Water loss is the difference between water usage billed and total water pumped into the system. From 2011 to 2016, the City reduced its water loss from 10.5% to 2.22%. Losses increased slightly to 4.04% in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey caused numerous water line breaks throughout the city. The City also had to turn over the water in its storage tanks following a water boil necessitated by the storm. Officials project the water loss rate for this year likely will be between 3% and 4%, still less than half of the state average.
The City took a two-pronged approach to the problem. Knowing that water lost even through the smallest leak adds up over time, the City began taking a more aggressive approach to water leaks. While most cities don’t address small or slow leaks, starting in 2013, crews began to act quickly to repair any leak, whether large or small, throughout the system. That same year, the City began replacing outdated water meters with self-reading meters—achieving better accuracy in meter readings and realizing a cost savings in personnel costs by replacing three meter-reader positions with one meter technician.
These measures have resulted in $575,000 savings to the City, which has helped avoid the need for significant rate increases for citizens. It also means that the City will likely pay off the 15-year, $1.3 million utility revenue bond in about half the time.