Idaho RWA Assists City with Lost Water, Turbidity, After Runoff Damages Pipe

JULIAETTA, Idaho – When customers started calling because they were without water, the City of Juliaetta, Idaho started searching for the leak that drained all the water from the storage tanks. When they couldn’t locate the break, assistance from the Idaho Rural Water Association helped the city restore service and obtain funding to replace the vital water line.

“We lost 200,000 to 300,000 gallons of water,” explained Juliaetta Public Works Director Josh Luscombe. “We were sure it would show up somewhere.”

The city contacted IRWA Circuit Rider Kevin McLeod for assistance. Circuit Riders are roving water professionals that provide training and technical assistance to utilities. McLeod suspected the leak was in a line that crossed the river, but the exact location was still undetermined.

“I did some line locating to find the pipe running into the river,” McLeod said. “I opened up the valve and you could see water and air bubbling up in the river.”

The line connects the Juliaetta system to a ground water well that supplements the city’s surface water intake during the summer when the river levels are low.

“They have a difficult time making water when the river is low,” McLeod said. “The well supplements the water at the plant.”

McLeod and Luscombe decided that the pipe was exposed the previous summer and that recent, record-level runoff had damaged the pipe. They decided to inspect a bridge recently built upstream of the water line, to see if the new structure had changed the river’s flow characteristics. When they returned on the opposite bank, they clearly saw the damaged line.

“You could see the broken pipe clearly when we were standing on the opposite bank,” McLeod said.

They isolated the broken line from the rest of the system, allowing the tanks to fill and restore service to all but five Juliaetta homes. McLeod recommended the city apply for a USDA Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant to secure funding to replace the water line before it was needed in the summer.

The next day, the high runoff continued to create problems for the Juliaetta treatment plant.

“They had problems with high turbidity, so I walked them through some potential solutions over the phone,” McLeod said. Turbidity is a measure of the solid material floating suspended in water, which can spike when runoff washes dirt and other material into the river.

“He told me to look in the records to see what chemicals we used in the past,” Luscombe said. “Then he walked me through some scenarios and through jar testing some different chemicals.”

After helping restore clean water to Juliaetta, McLeod has continued assisting the community in working with the USDA to acquire funding to repair the damaged water line. His assistance has been crucial for the small Idaho city.

“He’s been our Circuit Rider for a long time, and he’s always made sure we have everything we need, whether training material or hands-on assistance,” Luscombe said. “He’s a great guy and he’s excellent to work with.”