Case for Leaks Cover


Every day in America, we lose nearly six billion gallons of expensive, treated water due to crumbling infrastructure. Leaky, aging pipes and outdated systems are wasting 2.1 trillion gallons annually. That’s roughly 16% of our nation’s daily water use. Or, enough to swallow several major American cities whole: 


  • Manhattan under 298 feet of water
  • Minneapolis under 172 feet of water
  • Cleveland under 122 feet of water
  • Milwaukee under 104 feet of water
  • Detroit under 70 feet of water
  • Chicago under 43 feet of water


The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on sustainable cities, recently released a report titled The Case for Fixing the Leaks, part of a collaborative campaign focused on Great Lakes states, calling for leadership in improved water management.


The initiative calls on state and municipal leaders, water service utilities, industry-related agencies, and Great Lakes institutions to work together on:

  • New research regarding water loss and related issues
  • Education and technical support opportunities to encourage industry best practices
  • Supportive policies that encourage best practices, public reporting, and improved planning


In the Great Lakes states, a survey of water service providers estimated that 66.5 billion gallons of treated water is lost each year. That’s enough to fill Chicago’s Willis Tower sixteen times, or enough to meet the annual water needs of 1.9 million Americans.

Leaks Map


“Our aging water supply infrastructure has been an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem,” said Harriet Festing, CNT’s Water Program Director. “The good news is that there’s a clear desire for change. States and utilities around the country want to implement best practice water loss auditing, but are held up by lack of training, support, and incentives.”


A suite of cost-effective approaches to reducing water loss and providing smart, responsible water service to customers is now available. Best practices include state-of-the-art auditing methods, leak detection monitoring, targeted repairs or upgrades, pressure management, and better metering technologies. By adopting such practices, water service providers can save themselves and their communities money in the long run, while protecting water resources and generating economic growth. Dollar for dollar, infrastructure investments create 40 percent more jobs than across-the-board tax cuts, and over five times more jobs than temporary business tax cuts. The US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that for every job added in the water workforce, 3.68 jobs are added to the national economy.


“When I travel around the Great Lakes states and across the country, I often hear the argument that it will cost too much to fix the leaks and make other infrastructure improvements,” said Danielle Gallet, CNT’s Water Supply Program Manager and Infrastructure Strategist. “To which I reply, ‘How much is it costing us to do nothing?’ We need to better understand what our water loss conditions actually are. Establishing universal auditing and standards across water utilities is a critical, and low-cost, first step.”


The report is available on the CNT website at The Case for Fixing the Leaks

Post provided by Guest Blogger Danielle Gallet, Infrastructure Strategist & Water Supply Program Manager at the Center for Neighborhood Technology.  Danielle can be reach at danielleg@cnt.org




APWA Center for Sustainability Leadership Group member Michael Simpson, Senior Environmental Engineer, City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, has a story to tell.  So does Jenifer Willer, P.E., City of Eugene, Oregon Department of Public Works.   Both Jenifer and Michael have written case studies describing projects that demonstrate sustainability in public works. 


In the Humboldt Stormwater Greenway Project, the City of Los Angeles worked to daylight an existing storm drain system and constructing a stormwater  greenway with a “stream’ ecosystem.  The project constructed an above ground detention basin for temporary runoff storage in order to capture, infiltrate and remove pollutants from dry-weather runoff and limited stormwater flows from approximately 3.5 acres of adjacent ands, thereby improving the downstream water quality of Los Angeles River receiving waters.  The projects resulted in positive impact upon the natural environment and improved the delivery of services and enhanced the local infrastructure. 


The City of Eugene has implemented a variety of construction methods to maximize the sustainability practices in pavement preservation.  The three primary construction technologies the city uses reduce environmental impacts, increases the use of reclaimed asphalt binder materials and in-place recycling v. traditional street reconstruction.  The incorporation of these methods of construction have shown positive results in environmental, economic, social and health benefits to the community.  These projects create jobs, leverage city funds, and address pavement preservation backlogs while also providing public education opportunities, creating safe public facilities and improving overall community livability. 


The APWA Center for Sustainability is would like more stories like this to share with other APWA members.  The Center would like to highlight sustainable public works and infrastructure projects, programs and local initiatives so that we can build a collection of useful resources. 


The Center for Sustainability defines sustainability in public works as “seeking a balanced approach for a vibrant community today and tomorrow, and it is accomplished by the efficient delivery of infrastructure in an environmentally and socially responsible way that ensures the best economic choice in the long term.

We are seeking case studies on a wide variety of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Communications and stakeholder engagement
  • Making the case for sustainability to your elected officials
  • Recognizing a sustainability champion on your team
  • Budgeting/ finance issues
  • Transportation/ Transit
  • Water
  • Fleet
  • Facilities and Grounds
  • Small cities and Rural communities
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Leadership and Management
  • Solid Waste/ Recycling
  • Others topics that you want to share!


We have created a template for you to follow-- http://www.apwa.net/DR/index.asp?ID=1726.  

Please keep the case studies as brief as you can while still providing robust information.  Pictures, graphics and other images always add to the presentation.  


The Center for Sustainability will publish these case studies on the APWA website and make them accessible to everyone.  This is a great way to tout your own success, share learning experiences and advice, and connect with other public works professionals working to create sustainable communities. 

Thank you and if you have any questions please contact Julia Anastasio at janastasio@apwa.net