MISMANAGED: Labor water spokesman Walt Secord.
ABOUT 5.5 billion litres of the region’s water – the equivalent of more than 30,000 rainwater tanks – will be lost this year through leaky pipes and water mains, Hunter Water has forecast, with urgent leaks taking four hours to fix.
The worst offender is expected to be the Chichester pipeline, which a crew is assigned to inspect daily for leaks that typically take 9.7 hours to fix after being reported.
It takes an average 4.3 hours to fix urgent leaks or water main breaks across its nearly 5000-kilometre network, Hunter Water says.
That has sparked calls from Labor for more staff to respond to leaks. Thirteen staff work overnight, compared to 109 in the daily response crew.
Parliament was told that Hunter Water expected to lose 5510 mega-litres of water or 5.5 billion litres this year.
Under Office of Water guidelines, that would equate to about 30,000 standard rainwater tanks.
The 2013 forecast is down from 5820 megalitres of water lost in 2012 and 6058 megalitres in 2011.
Labor water spokesman Walt Secord said the figures were “extraordinary”.
It follows documents uncovered by Labor that revealed Hunter Water had written to pensioners about overdue water bills.
“At a time when Hunter Water is pursuing pensioners who have fallen behind on their bills, it is shocking to receive data showing that billions of litres of water are being wasted,” Mr Secord said.
“In opposition, [Premier] Barry O’Farrell promised to help with cost of living but, in government, we see waste and mismanagement mounting.”
A Hunter Water spokesman said leaks were assigned on a priority basis depending on their severity and impact.
Hunter Water was in the middle of an eight-year, $1 billion construction program which was “greatly decreasing the amount of water lost annually to leaks”, he said.
“Hunter Water has a long-term strategy to replace the 80-kilometre Chichester Trunk Gravity Main and has already replaced several key sections.”
The pipeline was especially susceptible because it was above ground, he said.