Now that winter is here, Cleveland Water pipe repair crews have to battle the bitter cold temperatures as well as an increase in water main breaks. We experience an increase in breaks during the winter season because of the freeze and thaw process. Since we know this is coming, we take preventative measures throughout the year to try and reduce some of the breaks leading up to the winter season. One of the biggest ways we work to address this issue is through our Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
Cleveland Water’s CIP focuses on our physical assets, which primarily consists of our underground infrastructure. We have reinvested $1.7 billion over the past 30 years into our infrastructure and we are currently spending $50-$60 million a year on a range of projects. In previous years, the CIP was focused on installing new transmission facilities, rehabilitating the water treatment plants, and installing our Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system. This year, and going forward, the focus of our CIP is on rehabilitating secondary pump stations and storage tanks and replacing water mains.
Water mains account for 70% of the value of our water system and historically were out of sight, out of mind. Because of this inattention, replacing and rehabilitating aging water mains has become a national initiative. At Cleveland Water, we will be investing over $26 million per year over the next 5 years in replacing and renewing water mains in the city, the suburbs, and in our stock of transmission mains.
Increased water main repair and replacement is one component of our focus on minimizing system-wide water loss. This year, we continued to maintain that focus by completing the inspection of half of our distribution system and investigating new technologies in underground leak detection. One method we tested involved sending soundwaves through mains in order to find leaks that aren’t visible above ground. Going forward, we will test additional, cutting-edge methods in order to find the most effective and economical one for our system.