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Town of Jonesborough should fix the water leaks now

Jonesborough should begin now to fix the system’s water leaks. Home owners are often advised to fix their leaking faucets. Certainly, the Town’s problem is bigger than a leaky faucet.
When up to 20 percent of the water processed at the water plant is being lost because of old infrastructure, residents have the right to insist a plan of repair begin immediately. Recent increases in water rates underscore the need for action now.
There is no question that Jonesborough’s water system needs attention. The water fund has provided evidence of the continuous loss of water in the system. The fund has become an early indicator that the system is in need of repair.
Town Recorder Abbey Miller has compared information on how much water is pumped into the system from the treatment plant and how much usage the town bills. In an ideal situation, that difference should be minimal and explainable.
“The difference in there, we should be able to account for,” Miller observes. “That’s what we’re struggling with.”
Water loss can happen in a lot of different ways, and the ability to determine just how much water a system is losing is a long process in itself, especially to get the most accurate amount.
The town has brought in engineers to work on designing a hydraulically zoned system, a move that could help control the pressure more accurately and allow leaks to be pinpointed and fixed.
Sometimes, because of pressure differences in the varying materials used to build the pipes, fixing one leak causes another one somewhere else in the water line. A lot of the system problems stemmed from the installation of the reservoir at Persimmon Ridge in 2006, which increased the height and pressure of the town’s system.
Positives occurred from that update – the ability to take on the Lowe’s project, for example.
However, the change “also increased the pressure and we knew we would have line breaks,” Town Administrator Bob Browning candidly admits. “We found 150 leaks a month when we shifted over.”
The town has repaired leaks but the capacity at which the water treatment plant operates remains impaired.
The good news is that officials are conducting a comprehensive study on the system. Browning calls the study a “high priority” project.
“It’s a big deal,” according to the Town Administrator. “It has financial implications for us long range. Right now, the plant operates at 80 percent, but it could be 60 or 70 percent. There’s also implications if you have to turn around and do an expansion before you should have to.”
Clearly, undetected water leaks cause losses of both water and town money. The comprehensive study of current water lines when completed should be the topic of a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Copies of the study should be made available to the public in advance and a period of public discussion should be allowed.
In our opinion the water system produces revenue and that revenue should be directed toward the repair of Jonesborough’s water lines. Future expansion of the town’s water services should be considered secondary to the need to repair present waterlines. Raising water rates while wasting water funds by failing to repair the town’s water system is economically unsound. The public entitled to know the extent of and cost to maintain an efficiency of more than 90 per cent in Jonesborough’s water system. Until that goal is reached, the progress being made currently on waterline repair needs to be an agenda item discussed and acted upon at every meeting of the Board.