North Carolina Rural Water Assists Community Locating Leaks, Saving Thousands of Dollars

TRYON, N. C. – A pair of leaks strained the capacity of the Tryon, N. C. water treatment plant, but assistance from the North Carolina Rural Water Association helped locate the leaks and save thousands of gallons of lost water.

“We had significant leaks,” said Greg McCool, Water Treatment Superintendent for the Town of Tryon. “The treatment plant was running an extra two hours a day just to keep up.”

Tryon was losing an estimated 150,000 gallons of water per day.

McCool called Keith Buff, a Circuit Rider with the North Carolina Rural Water Association. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide technical assistance to rural water utilities. In many cases, they have experience and equipment that is difficult to acquire at small communities.

“They had surveyed the entire system visually, but couldn’t find the leak,” Buff said.

Their visual search was complicated by the heavy amount of rain in North Carolina.

“In some places, they’ve received nearly 100 inches of rain this year,” Buff said. “It makes it difficult to detect leaks visually when the creeks are running dirty.”

Buff used NCRWA acoustic leak detection equipment to start surveying the distribution system.

“He found a small leak right off the bat,” McCool said.

The second, larger leak was more difficult to locate. Buff used special correlation equipment to narrow down the location of the leak.

“Every material has a known speed of sound,” Buff explained. “The correlators use two accelerometers to listen to the noise of the leak. It has algorithms built in that compute the difference in sound with the speed of the material to determine a location.”

Buff then used listening equipment to narrow the leak to a six-inch main.

“The leak was spraying directly into a culvert that drained directly into a creek,” he said.

Once the leaks were repaired, the treatment plant’s run times returned to normal. His assistance saved the town an estimated 150,000 gallons of water per day and roughly $2,700 per week.

“I always call Keith and he’s good to come out and help,” McCool said. “Rural Water is always a big help to the Town of Tryon.”