Cost for water main breaks are adding up

Lisa Goudy
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Last year, the City of Moose Jaw spent $831,108 for 38 water main breaks.

Coun. Brian Swanson talks water main breaks at the Aug. 25, 2014 council meeting.

From Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year, there have been 46 water main breaks at a cost of $1.08 million.

“That’s the problem you get when you neglect something,” said Coun. Brian Swanson. “I think it’s an essential management tool here for what is the No. 1 issue facing the city.”

Information regarding expenditures on water main breaks from 2008 to 2013 was presented in an answer to an enquiry at Monday’s council meeting. Swanson submitted the enquiry on Nov. 25.

For the first six months of the year, the average cost of a water main break was $23,526.43 per break. The average cost of a water main break in 2013 was $21,871.26.

“I remember about five or six years ago, there was a response where it indicated our average water main break cost was about $5,000,” said Swanson. “I’m wondering how did we get to $23,000 per water main break? Does that not raise eyebrows or concerns elsewhere as to average costs?”

Mark Sture, the city’s transit manager who has been involved in the portfolio recently, said through experience in other places, an average of between $10,000 and $20,000 is not unheard of. Part of that cost is because of equipment and excavation costs that can be around $1,500 or more each day.

Matt Noble, city manager, said some of the costs are “extremely high,” but city administration will follow up.

“These types of breaks don’t occur conveniently,” he said. “I am aware that there were some very significant water main breaks that were extremely complex to resolve. Part of it as well is due to the nature of the water mains, we had to hire experts from outside of the city to help us to excavate properly in a safe manner.”

He added a lot of the work required has been done through overtime rates.

In 2008, the city spent $379,167 for water main breaks. This jumped to $950,659 in 2009 and then decreased to $742,028 in 2010. In 2011, water main breaks cost $594,849 and in 2012, the cost for water main breaks was $605,673.

According to the Regina Leader-Post, as of mid-March 2014, the City of Regina had repaired 180 water main breaks. With 55 running breaks in the city at that time, it was estimated to cost the city $2 million by the end of March.

The City of Saskatoon averaged five water main breaks a day since March 1. The City of Saskatoon has had a total of 170 water main breaks from Jan. 1 to mid-March.

The Toronto Star reported that Toronto responded to 1,500 water main breaks in 2013 and, as of mid-March, had serviced 1,033 water main breaks. It estimated the average cost to expose, repair and re-cover a break is $8,000.

Coun. Don Mitchell agreed that water main breaks are a “major issue and concern.

“I know that the engineering department has been playing catch-up on this all summer long,” he said. “There’s still a ways to go in terms of the repairs of water main breaks.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Regina Leader-Post, Toronto Star

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Regina, Toronto

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