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City of DeKalb's study to look at aging water pipes

DeKALB – DeKalb’s water mains chart the growth of the city, spreading out like roots as the population grew.

The oldest water mains, found near downtown and under roads paved with brick, date back to the city’s incorporation more than 100 years ago. Newer areas have newer mains, some built in the 1950s and ‘60s during an age of innovation with narrower pipes and fewer materials that have not stood well against the test of time.

These various mains and their needs will all be analyzed during the city’s comprehensive study to look at the condition of its water systems later this year.

“We have water mains that are 100 years old,” DeKalb Public Works Director T.J. Moore said. “That doesn’t necessarily make it bad, we just need to see how it interacts with everything else.”

The study, which will be conducted by engineering firm Burns and McDonnell for $48,000, is also the first time the city will have a formal water rate study.

Bryan Faivre, assistant director of public works, said the city’s equipment for its water systems needs to be looked at so the city can plan for any repairs or replacements in the future. Water rates will be looked at to see if they are sufficient to meet the needs of the population and take care of its cost, Faivre said.

“The study will look at water rates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean water rates will go up,” Faivre said.

In DeKalb, the typical person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water a day, with the largest household use of water including flushing the toilet, then showers and baths. A typical family of four uses 26,000 to 30,000 gallons of water per three-month billing cycle. The cost is $3.10 per unit, which is 748 gallons of water, plus a $15 quarterly water service fee, according to the city’s annual water report.

Faivre said the city’s five water treatment plants are considered fairly new but are aging. The city’s water system has a maximum pumping capacity of 12 million gallons a day, with an average daily demand of 3.32 million gallons a day, according to the city’s annual water report. To ensure the water’s quality, about 14,000 tests were
performed on the city’s water last year, Faivre said.

The city’s water system serves more than 44,000 residents. Faivre said while most city water systems see demand peak throughout the summer months, the city of DeKalb is different due to Northern Illinois University students leaving and returning. The city sees peaks in water use when students return to campus early in the year and later in the summer. That will be taken into account during the water study, Faivre said.

Moore said the study may offer up models for where the city’s water system could go in the future, if any changes do need to be addressed.

“We’ve never really had someone come in and take a detailed look,” Faivre said. “We can find out what needs to be planned for.”

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