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Almost a fifth of the total water distributed last year was lost, Liberty reports



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – A total of 18.94% of the water distributed by Liberty last year was lost reports say. This means that almost 19 gallons of water were lost of 100 gallons distributed in 2020.

In total numbers, the Pine Bluff water company lost more than 724 million gallons of water last year.

“That tells me nothing’s changed,” said Win Trafford, a former Pine Bluff alderman and vocal critic of how Liberty has conducted its operations. “The leaks are still out there. The leaks are still happening.”

The issue about the water supply were evident for the first time in February when many homes experienced low to no water pressure at all. The cold weather caused water pipes to freeze and burst on ‘almost every corner’. Many residents as well as institutions had to limit their usage in order to be operative during the whole day and night.

The argument was that, had Liberty been more aggressive in maintaining its system over the years, thereby reducing the hundreds of thousands of gallons it was already losing or couldn’t account for every day, the effects of the winter storm would have been much less serious.

Mayor Shirley Washington asked a Liberty executive to report what the company is doing to lower the lost water. The answer to the question, that took place just in the middle of the water crisis, was they will look into it.

The national average for lost water is sitting around 15%. In 2019, Liberty had a 30% of lost and unaccounted water. In raw numbers, that equals to 920 million gallons.

Just for a comparison, the total lost and unaccounted water in 2018 was 276 million gallons.

“We recognize how critical and precious this natural resource is,” said Kelli Price, a company spokesperson. “While we are improving, we continue to take steps to address this ongoing challenge. As part of our infrastructure replacement plan, we make prudent investments each year in Pine Bluff’s water system, replacing or upgrading aging infrastructure to help ensure safe and reliable water service.”

Price said the company repaired 364 leaks in 2020 and another 57 underground leaks so far in 2021.

“We’re currently testing meters throughout the community to identify and replace malfunctioning meters,” she said. “We’re replacing older water meters and implementing automated meter reading (AMR) throughout our service area. Older meters can slow down over time resulting in reduced measurement accuracy. AMR improves efficiency and meter reading accuracy. We are also actively combating water theft, which contributes to our lost and unaccounted for water and unduly burdens our paying customers.”

Price said Liberty had “not been made aware of any street infrastructure issues due to water infrastructure leaks.”

“We’re proud to serve Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, not only with high quality water but also as a corporate citizen, supporting the area through economic development, volunteerism and financial assistance,” she said. “We’ll continue our efforts to listen, learn and improve to better serve our customers and the Pine Bluff community.”