Water pumped from the utility’s McCarron pump station enters a distribution system consisting of approximately 1,200 miles of water mains in the city of Saint Paul and nearby suburban communities. Total water storage capacity is 131 million gallons, approximately three times the average daily demand of 40 million gallons a day.
The utility maintains more than 94,000 water services to serve more than 425,000 customers. Many of the original lead services have been replaced with copper; eventually, all lead services will be replaced. The utility offers a lead service replacement assessment program (PDF - 376KB) to residential and business owners who wish to replace the lead service on their property.
Except for water used for fire fighting, all water provided by the utility is metered. The utility owns all meters, except for those used on fire supplies, which are owned by the user. All one-inch and smaller meters are read and billed on a quarterly basis; typically, these are the domestic accounts. Larger meters—mostly for commercial property and large multiple dwellings—are read and billed monthly.
Utility staff obtain the meter reading from the property by driving by and using a receiver to pick up the coded-transmission from the metering system. This reading is then uploaded to the computer billing system to produce the water use information required to create a bill.
To ensure that adequate quantities of water are available in all parts of the city and suburbs at all times, the utility’s system of mains, reservoirs, and pumps is designed to meet fire demands in addition to normal requirements. The city's system of fire-hydrant placement is designed to accommodate easy access to hydrants for all types of buildings. Every hydrant is inspected at least once a year for accessibility, flowage, and leakage. If needed, they are repaired or replaced.
Saint Paul is sometimes referred to as the city of seven hills. This topography requires that a substantial amount of water in the distribution system be re-pumped through the utility's booster stations to provide sufficient pressure in the high-lying areas.
The system is built on five elevation layers: low service, high service, boosted service, secondary boosted service, and reduced pressure service. Within one elevation layer, there may be several distinct zones. For example, the Saint Anthony Park zone and the Highland Park zone are on the same elevation layer, but are distinctly separate zones. Each zone has a reservoir system for storage.
Low service includes downtown Saint Paul and the low-lying regions south and southwest of downtown Saint Paul.
High service encompasses the central portion of Saint Paul.
Boosted service consists of Saint Paul’s Highland Park, the Upper West Side, and much of the East Side, in addition to Saint Anthony Park, Mendota Heights, and much of Maplewood.
Secondary boosted service includes West Saint Paul and the south and east portions of Maplewood.
Reduced pressure service are found on steep hillsides. As water flows downhill it can lead to dangerously high pressures at the bottom of the hill. This requires the placement of pressure reducing valves on the water mains that feed downhill in these areas. These areas include the West Side bluff and the south Lexington Avenue bluff.
All of the utility’s field work is coordinated by the dispatch office in the distribution division. This work includes main construction and repair, installation of new water services, and service shut-off and turn-on functions. This office also handles emergency calls from customers and police and fire services. Emergency crews are on duty 24 hours a day.