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PCWA Listening to Water

PCWA supplies quality drinking water to the historic Gold Rush towns of Colfax and Alta but some of the pipelines serving the two communities are old and difficult to maintain.

Finding leaks in the area isn’t as easy as looking for wet pavement. In fact, PCWA Water Management Specialist Randy Cox, says preliminary water audits have shown water losses of up to 28 percent in Colfax and 38 percent in Alta.

PCWA Sound loggers 

Cox also noted that the old pipelines run through difficult terrain with tough access.

To reduce water losses in the old distribution systems, Cox prepared a successful state grant application that will bring PCWA up to $147,874 in water efficiency funding. This money is being used to install a noise detection system.

PCWA Sound loggers 

Believed to be the first of its kind in the Sierra foothills. The pilot project, scheduled for December, includes more than 100 small cylindrical loggers that will be installed on buried water lines in the local distribution systems.

Cox said a bass sound would indicate water’s normal presence in a pipe while a higher pitched treble sound would indicate a possible leak.

Once in operation, the automatic loggers will record nightly readings – in the middle of the night when water movement, use and background noise are at minimum levels. The recorded data will be transferred via radio waves in much the same way as the existing PCWA radio-read system for meter reading.

Cox said the loggers, placed along pipelines every 300 to 400 feet, will be able to pinpoint leaks, generally within one to two feet of the actual location of the leak, allowing repairs to be made quickly

PCWA worked with CABY (the Cosumnes, American, Bear and Yuba river watershed planning group) and the state Department of Water Resources to obtain the Prop. 84 water efficiency funding.


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