130 million gallons of water down the drain


It never stops. Morning, noon, night, winter spring, summer and fall, it runs.

Approximately 10-and-a-half years -- that's how long Mark Hurst has been watching and listening to the water pouring out of an East Bay MUD pipe into a storm drain. In 1998, he and his wife became property managers of the La Playa apartments in Lafayette. It was running then, as it is now.

Hurst says it didn't bother him too much until last month when East Bay MUD announced mandatory drought measures for its customers.

"They've been talking about EBMUD raising the water rates and rationing and it just kind of angered me that they're dumping water down the storm drains and they're fixing to take people's wallets," says Hurst.

At one point, Hurst and a buddy used a stopwatch and a five-gallon bucket to figure out how much water was being wasted.

"Twenty-five plus gallons a minute," says Hurst.

That's 36,000 gallons per day, down the drain. The 43 families that live at the La Playa complex consume an average of 11,000 gallons of water per day.

Xavier Irias is the director of engineering for East Bay MUD. He says East Bay MUD has known about this for at least a decade. But fixing the 80-year-old pipe nine feet in diameter, one of two that serve some 800,000 customers west of Walnut Creek, would be expensive and highly disruptive.

Xavier Irias: "This particular one would cost tens of millions of dollars. It would involve an outage on that pipe."

Laura Anthony: "What would you say to folks who are going to see our story and maybe get angry because they're being asked to fix their own leaks and conserve?"

Xavier Irias: "I would say that we are doing exactly what we're asking them to do. Fix every leak that you reasonably can, and even for the tough ones, like this, we are going after it."

They're after it because they're completing a study that they hope to have done by the end of this year. They're hoping to use some new technology to try and fix things in some way without having to take the whole thing apart. A fix however, is probably still years off.

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