Rural Water Assists Community Suffering from Collapsed Tank and 10 Million Gallons in Water Loss

PINE GROVE, Calif. – When an accident caused a water tank to implode, the Pine Grove Community Services District discovered they were losing 10 million gallons of water a year. Assistance from the California Rural Water Association helped bring the situation under control and saved the community over $13,000 per year.

The situation first emerged when Pine Grove connected a 12-inch main line to a 500,000-gallon water tank that was vented for, at most, a six-inch main.

“It wouldn’t have been a problem if a car hadn’t run over a fire hydrant,” said CRWA Circuit Rider Angela Wendele.

A car ran over a fire hydrant and created a massive drain that emptied the tank and created a vacuum.

“It imploded the tank,” explained Paul Johnston, a member of the Pine Grove community council.

A water audit at the time found that the community was losing 10 million gallons of water.

“We’d gotten some pretty high readings,” Johnston said.

The high-water loss was unsustainable, because Pine Grove buys its water from the Amador Water Agency. The leak was costing Pine Grove over $13,000 per year. The District made repairs to the damaged tank, but over 7.5 million gallons remained unaccounted for.

Wendele was visiting the community when they brought up the difficulty in detecting the leaks.

“The situation is complicated because this area is prone to springs,” Wendele explained. “There are a lot of mines and when they fill up, springs will emerge above ground.”

Angela Wendele Circuit Rider for California Rural Water Association, Russ Howard, Water Operations Specialist Pine Grove CSD

Wendele and Operations Specialist Russ Howard took Pine Grove’s leak detection equipment and went to an area with an apparent leak. The area had a large water flow that was eroding the hillside.

“I suspected the water was running a long time because the erosion wasn’t new,” Wendele said.

She asked Howard to test the water for total chlorine. When the water showed chlorine levels, it was clear the source was a leak and not a natural spring. Wendele used the detection equipment to narrow the leak to roughly three feet. The leak was behind a customer’s fenced yard, so Howard made contact later to repair the leak.

They then went to another suspected leak where water flow was eroding the pavement. Using the leak detection equipment, Wendele confirmed another leak under the pavement.

Angela using leak detection equipment and as-builts to narrow down leak location.

After repairing the leaks, Pine Grove has reduced its water loss and made its costs sustainable. It proved to be a positive day for both the community and Wendele.

Wendele had assisted Pine Grove with annual board training, USDA loan applications and rate studies.

“She’s always been very friendly, helpful and willing to go to bat for us,” Johnston said of Wendele’s assistance.

CRWA is still aiding Pine Grove.

“Julia is working with us now to help get us a grant to replace the tank,” Johnston said.

Julia Martinez is a CRWA specialist that assists communities with accessing State Revolving Fund programs.

“They’re always there,” Johnston said of California Rural Water. “When we call, they respond.”