City of Wichita crews discovered a leak in a pipe near the main water treatment plant on Wednesday which could significantly affect water service to all 450,000 residential, business and wholesale customers. Leaks can precede significant pipe failures.
The primary pipe connects the City’s two primary water sources - the Equus Beds Aquifer and Cheney Lake - and feeds the water into the treatment plant. City officials suspect the leak is the result of the age of the 66-inch pipe which is buried. Due to concerns of a pipe collapse, crews have not dug around the pipe to assess its condition.
“While this development could have a significant impact, we are hoping the immediate steps we are taking will ensure customers continue to have water,” said Alan King, director of Wichita Public Works & Utilities. “Nonetheless, this leak is a high concern because this section of the primary pipe is a single point of failure for the system.”
The system also has a 24-inch bypass pipe which could be used to carry some of the water into the treatment plant. Crews are working on a plan to add a second bypass pipe which could take up to five days.
The existing bypass pipe would carry significantly less water than the primary pipe. The daily demand is 44 million gallons per day (MGD) for the month of January. The existing bypass pipe would carry as much as 25 MGD. But the City is working to increase the capacity of both bypass pipes, up to 50 MGD.
City staff is monitoring the leak and the bypass system while it’s being designed and built.
“Once the bypass structure is built,” King said, “it will be safe to dig up the feed line and assess its condition.”
In the unlikely event, the system is limited to 25 MGD, customers may be asked not to use water unless “absolutely necessary,” King said. He added the City’s water quality testing would increase to ensure the water is safe to consume. The City will issue a boil advisory if necessary to alert customers. The City will keep the public informed.