According to NBC Bay Area:

The drought has Californians feeling the pressure to conserve water, but some century-old pipes may be thwarting these efforts. The government’s bank account is also running dry trying to fix it.

Leaking water pipes lose an estimated ten percent of the bay’s potable water every year.

Many of the system’s pipes have aged well beyond their expected retirement, causing an average of three breaks every day in the entire Bay Area and tens of millions of gallons of water lost. Local water companies have beefed up their proactive replacement efforts, but with 5000 thousand miles of pipes from the north bay to San Jose, it’s tough to keep up.

San Francisco has many historical buildings- and that means historical pipes. Out of the 1,200 miles of pipe running under its streets, about 20 percent of that is over a century old.

According to the city’s public utilities company (PUC), leaks like that at Alegiani’s house cause the loss of 3 to 8 million gallons of San Francisco water every day. That’s a rate of 4 to 8 percent of the 70 million gallons of water San Franciscans use each day.

At one point, crews dug out a broken cast-iron water main first installed in 1863- pipe first put in the ground during the Civil War.

Across the bay, East Bay Municipal Utilities District oversees the delivery of water to 1.3 million customers in 28 different cities. The system has 4,200 miles of pipe, more than three times the amount in San Francisco. Last year alone, East Bay MUD had 800 breaks.

According to Irias, the oldest pipes in the system are made of cast-iron and were installed in the 1800s. Now, some 150 years later, they cause the most leaks of any type in East Bay MUD’s system.

“Half of the leaks are cast-iron even though it is only about one third of the total population of pipes. That’s partly just because it’s older. It’s prone to corrosion,” Irias said.

However, the newer pipes have problems too. In the 1950s and 1960s, the East Bay switched to asbestos cement.

“The cast-iron, while it may be breaking, it’s older, but the

[asbestos cement] doesn’t seem to last nearly as long as cast-iron,” Irias told the Investigative Unit. “We do anticipate those leak rates are going to go up with time and actually that’s what we’ve seen in the last few years as we started taking a really close look at [asbestos cement].”

“As that soil dries, it shrinks. So if there was a pipe, that maybe without the drought, would have failed in the next couple of years, the drought just gives it that extra nudge and it breaks early,” he said.

East Bay MUD currently replaces about 10 miles of pipe per year, up from seven miles per year several years ago. But officials admit they need to start replacing 40 miles per year just to keep up. It costs about $2.4 million a mile to replace water deliver pipes.

Increasing the replacement rates in cities across the country could cost as much as a trillion dollars in taxes and higher water rates.

California congressman, Jared Huffman, is proposing legislation this year to force congress to spend more money on this problem now.

“If we don’t update and modernize that infrastructure, we’re going to see massive failures.”