By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Water leaks are a daily reality for any city. Over decades, underground water pipes age and can corrode in the soil and suddenly there’s a puddle of water in the middle of a neighborhood street or a spewing geyser holding up traffic at a main intersection.
There are four different levels of assessment for these types of water leaks for Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) and the public is a critical partner in alerting LCU by calling Emergency Dispatch at 575/526-0500.
“All leaks are serious,” said LCU Water Deputy Director, Adrienne L. Widmer, P.E., “But it’s our service staff who comes out at any time of the day or night to check on a reported leak, determine the severity of the leak, and where it goes in the queue of repairs.”
Plenty of calls are reported by the public. But the fastest and most efficient way to assure response to a water leak report is by calling the Utilities Emergency Dispatch at 575/526-0500. The phone is answered 24 hours a day and callers will immediately reach a live person 24/7 who has the ability to know the status of a leak, if it’ has already been reported and pending a repair, or if it’s a brand-new report.
After the call on new leaks, a service staff member is called, comes to the site, and determines the severity of the leak. The four different levels work like this:
Level 1. Is the most dire emergency event. It’s the stream of water in the air, or flowing water impeding traffic, or a loss of water to large sections of neighborhoods or commercial areas. It’s a threat to public safety.
Level 2. Is a serious event that has an immediate effect on the area but is not an immediate threat to safety.
Level 3. Is a leak that looks like it needs investigating for a source that is likely not a main line for the City.
Level 4. This leak is judged as the most benign but needs attention in the order it is received after the three previous levels, such as an obviously slow drip from a water meter.
All service line leaks are photographed and routinely monitored to document any difference in severity between the time of the initial report to when it is able to be fixed.
Prior to repairs, another very crucial component of the levels is the need for locating other underground utilities - like electric, fiber, or phone lines - along with LCU gas and wastewater. In a Level 1 or 2 situation, locating is done within two hours so that LCU crews can dig up the broken section of system. On a Level 3 or 4, the locating is completed within two working days.
With more than 700 miles of water main lines throughout the city and 35,000 water service connections, any Level 3 or 4 events are typically repaired as a first in, first out order, but if there are no Level 1 or 2 situations, the locating time is sped up for the lower-tiered leaks to the two hour turnaround.
“The average time for fixing most service line leaks is three to five hours, depending on the severity and location,” Widmer said. “Part of Utilities Strategic Business Plan goals is to make sure that no residence is without water for more than 90 minutes on service line leaks.”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 575/528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
A contractor hired by LCU repaired the recent water main line break on University Avenue. The public is a critical partner in reporting water leaks quickly. See a leak? Please report it to Utilities Emergency Dispatch at any time, day or night, at 575/ 526-0500.
Note: This story was published in the Las Cruces Sun-News on Sept. 15, 2019.