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Madras mystery: Where's the missing water?

Apr 28, 2014


By The Associated Press

MADRAS — Officials in Madras want to know where the city's water has gone after determining more than a fifth of the amount acquired to sell to residents is unaccounted for.

Leaky pipes and bad meters are likely culprits, city officials told The Bend Bulletin in a story Monday, but no cause has been pinpointed.

Municipal water experts say it's not unusual for a city water system to have supplies that seem to evaporate. One said keeping the amount to 15 percent is often a goal for Oregon cities.

Madras is about 40 miles north of Bend in one of Oregon's drier regions.

In 2012, Madras bought 214 million gallons from Deschutes Valley Water District. Meter records show it sold 151 million gallons.

The difference amounts to more than 29 percent. The city figures its own use at 7 percent, meaning 22 percent is missing.

“That's high, but it's not unreasonably high,” said Hayes McCoy of Redmond, a contract engineer working on an update of the Madras water plan.

He said he found the percentage grew between 2009 and 2012.

The city's utilities supervisor, Keith Bedell, said the figures were a surprise.

The town of about 6,200 people has about 920 metered accounts.

“We have older meters that could read lower than new meters,” Bedell said. The city plans to start checking them.

Raquel Rancier, senior policy coordinator with the Oregon Water Resources Department, said it's normal for cities to have water unaccounted for, and firefighting, street cleaning and construction are possible reasons.

“In any water system, there will be a difference in the amount of water produced and the amount of water sold to customers,” she said.

Madras has bought water from the Deschutes Valley district for 20 years.

District General Manager Ed Pugh said it may be tough for the city to figure out the puzzle.

Madras, he said, sits on silt at the bottom of a basin, so water from a leak is likely soaking into the ground and disappearing.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

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