By Cassie McClure
Water leaks aren’t always obvious. When an unfortunate leak is underground or not in an obvious location, it’s the consumption of water that alerts Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) to a possible leak. LCU employees then reach out to the customers – residential, commercial, and industrial. One customer that was recently alerted was Las Cruces City Manager Ifo Pili.
For him, the leak was in his laundry room. Water went down the drain without anyone noticing. At least, anyone at his house. “It would have never created a puddle that we would have noticed,” said Pili. “I’m grateful that the program worked as it should and that my family was alerted to the excess water consumption.”
“We determined that the threshold for notifying customers would be 5 gallons an hour,” said LCU Management Analyst James Stafford. “That number is based on the fact that at that rate, over a 30-day billing period, the customer’s consumption would exceed the 3,000 gallons included with their monthly access fee.”
The current leak notification process is that an LCU employee monitors the system daily using the data collection system and the customer portal, UtilityHawk alert system. “Those accounts that have the most critical alerts are usually listed first,” said Stafford.
When an alert comes up for meters that show continuous water flow of five gallons-an-hour or more, a LCU staff member will pull up the account within the data collection system and verify the actual minimum hourly consumption. Depending on the severity, they will notify the customer via phone, email, or even send out a field crew.
“The employee will then explain when the water event began and walk through a checklist of areas the customer can check during the physical inspection of their property,” said Stafford. “If the customer can’t locate the problem, staff may also request an LCU field investigation to try and assist in locating the issue. If those attempts fail, and the consumption persists, then we recommend the customer contact a licensed plumber to assist in locating the leak.”
Since starting to track on December 1, 2020, to August 31, 2021, LCU has notified 630 customers with high water consumption alerts – 493 residential, 118 small commercial, 18 large commercial, and one industrial account.
“Of those customers notified who have fixed their water system and then contacted Customer Central, LCU has provided $11,830.50 in account adjustments,” said Stafford.
For water leaks residents may see on the street, LCU schedules repairs based on levels of severity. Once LCU is alerted - either by the alert system or by a customer - a service staff member comes to the site to access the leak. The four levels are:
● Level 1 is an emergency event. It’s the stream of water in the air, or flowing water impeding traffic, or a loss of water or pressure to large city sections.
● Level 2 is a serious event that immediately affects the area but is not an immediate threat to safety.
● Level 3 is a leak that looks like it needs investigating for a source that is likely not a mainline for the city.
● Level 4 is judged as the most benign, such as a slow drip from a broken water meter. It receives attention in the order it is received after leaks in the three previous levels are addressed.
If you see a leak, give Utilities Emergency Dispatch, available 24 hours a day, a call at (575) 526-0500.
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: Did you forget about a hose at the back of your yard? Large excess water usage is something that LCU alerts customers about, but if you see a leak in the city, give LCU a call 24-hours a day.