Defenders: Who's footing bill for thousands of water main breaks?

Could lost water impact your bill?

SAN ANTONIO – There were 2,556 water main breaks between June 1, 2015, and July 14, 2016, according to the San Antonio Water System.

SAWS estimates 4,000 acre feet of water was lost.

That’s enough to flood 4,000 football fields with 1 foot of water each.

Still, the amount is a fraction of the water SAWS provides customers annually: 250,000 acre feet of water.

The Defenders examined SAWS water main break statistics after a contractor punctured a pipe near Olmos Basin Monday, shooting water sky high.

Of the 2,556 breaks that occurred between June 2015 and mid July 2016, 49 were caused by contractors.

When a contractor or subcontractor is responsible for damaging a pipe, SAWS pays for the repairs in order to restore service as soon as possible and then later bills the company for the cost.

As of August 4, only two of those 49 contractors had paid SAWS for the repairs.

Anne Hayden, SAWS communications manager, says the water utility works with each contractor on a case-by-case basis to determine what they may owe.

There is not a set time limit within which a company must pay SAWS.

The KSAT Digital Team created this interactive map of water main breaks between June 1 and July 14.

“There’s a number of things that can happen,” Hayden said. “But we keep up with them and if necessary we will file a legal claim against them.”

The majority of water main breaks are caused by the age of the pipe and Mother Nature.

Twenty of the 2,556 water main breaks between that same time period were on pipes 100 years old or older.

Water main breaks tend to increase during dry periods.

“When we have wet years, we see very few, comparatively, main breaks because the soil is loose and its not putting a lot of pressure on the pipes,” said Hayden.

SAWS customers should not expect to see the cost of lost water impact their bills.

Hayden says SAWS budgets each year for water lost due to main breaks and customers should not see significant impact.

“That would probably be reflected in a 10th of a cent on our customers because, lucky for them, we have a very large operation,” Hayden said.

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