A major break in a water pipe in San Luis Obispo over the weekend has been repaired, but the battered section of California Boulevard it damaged is a stark reminder of the city’s aging underground infrastructure.
The 16-inch cast iron water main that broke was installed in 1956. It runs from Highway 101 to Bishop Street at Johnson Avenue.
City crews were able to repair the pipe quickly Sunday, but an estimated 85,000 to 100,000 gallons of water were lost. That’s enough water to meet the demands of an average household for a year.
It will likely be a month before the road is completely repaired, said Noah Evans, water distribution supervisor.
The fix, including the overtime paid to employees, is estimated at $12,500. That money will come from an account set aside for such repairs in the city’s water fund, Evans said.
The recent break was in the same pipe that blew in front of French Hospital Medical Center last June — losing about 2.2 million gallons of water or enough water to meet the demands of up to 20 homes for a year.
Much of the city’s 184 miles of underground water pipelines have surpassed their life span. “We would love to have all new pipeline out there, but the city’s fiscal reality just doesn’t allow for that,” Evans said. “We have to get as much of a life span as possible out of the pipes. No one likes to see water rates increase.”
The goal, Evans said, is to replace about 2 percent of the pipes annually — spending about $1.2 million each year on the replacements.
The pipe that recently broke is scheduled to be replaced between 2013 and 2015. However, the city’s water revenue has declined by 10 percent in the last year as residents are using less water, and that replacement might be delayed, Evans said.
Despite the recent water main breaks, things are actually getting better, Evans said.
In 2007-08 there were 18 water main breaks. That number dropped to 10 in 2009-10. Service line repairs have likewise declined from 187 in 2007-2008 to 85 in 2009-2010.