By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun News 07/12/20.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology is now providing detailed data on thousands of water meters throughout the city; data that was not available with previous water metering. Previous meters did not register and record hourly water consumption that provides the data to identify leaks. Now Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) customers are having a hard time believing they have leaks – even when notified.
A frequent customer response is, “We don’t have a leak. We would know if we had a leak. But why has our water bill gone up?”
LCU is notifying individual customers when the new AMI technology shows an ongoing 24-hour-a-day water flow of five gallons per hour or more – a clear indicator of a leak on the customer side of the water meter. Some commercial accounts show continuous consumption of 220 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day. That’s a lot of wasted water. Unfortunately, only about half of LCU customers notified so far have responded and are having leaks repaired.
Underground water line leaks may be hard to spot. Water may be leaking unnoticed in part of your yard, or you may not even see a wet spot on top of the ground. But if your water meter is showing a continuous water flow when all water-using appliances and faucets are turned off, it’s worth investigating, instead of paying for water seeping into the ground. Check your property carefully, and if you do not see a wet spot, call LCU Customer Central at 541-2111 to schedule a water investigation or your local plumber for help.
Some leaks are small but ongoing. When LCU does come out to investigate, a very common issue is a leaking toilet flapper, which could be easily replaced by a home or business owner for less than $10. Inside a toilet tank is a rubber “flapper” that over time can stop sealing completely, allowing a small constant stream of water to escape down the drain. You probably cannot even hear the water leaking out of the tank. But, add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet tank. If colored water seeps into the bowl, water is being wasted – it could add up to hundreds and possibly thousands of gallons a month - and you are paying for it.
Other leaks are larger and sometimes undetected:
- A yard line leak or break, and broken irrigation system lines or sprinkler heads are a common cause for sudden increases in water consumption.
- Another sudden increase in water bills is frequently due to forgotten garden hose left running for a period of time. Take a walk about your yard and check your irrigation system and areas that appear to be more lush than others.
“Many of the problems have simple fixes,” said Jose Provencio, LCU deputy director business services. “LCU cannot make the repairs for our customers, but we can make them aware of sources of leaks and actions to lower their bills.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Leaks range from unnoticed water bubbling up from broken sprinkler lines to hidden underground water line breaks and leaking flappers in toilets. Thanks to new AMI technology, LCU is notifying customers if they have a 24-hour-a-day continuous water flow of five gallons per hour or more.