(Missoula Current) While the City of Missoula has reduced the rate of leakage from its water system by 16% over the last two years, it has more work to do and, this summer, it will tackle a number of downtown projects.

The city this week announced plans to begin three water main replacement projects in the downtown district starting next week, including East Front Street, West Pine Street and Edith Street.

“The City’s water utility continues to improve the municipal water system with projects such as these to reduce water system leakage, improve water service reliability, and reduce the utility’s energy usage and related costs,” the city said in a statement.

The project on East Front Street will replace around 2,700 linear feet of water main, much of it initially installed in the 1920s and 1930s. The project on West Pine Street will replace more than 1,000 linear feet of water main installed in 1914.

The third project, slated for Edith Street, will replace more than 2,100 linear feet of water main installed in 1947. All three projects will likely have some impact on traffic.

“For all three projects, completion dates can vary due to inclement weather and other unforeseeable circumstances,” the city said. “Detour routes have been established and will be clearly marked.”

The projects represent an ongoing effort to update the city's water system. When it was acquired after a lengthy legal proceeding with the former owner, Mountain Water Co., the system had a leakage rate of roughly 50%.

But when the city financed the system's purchase, it included a funding model that set aside millions of dollars annually for capital improvements. The city intends to replace 1% of its 340 miles of water main each year.

So far, the effort has begun to pay off. The city’s most recent survey showed a total estimated leakage rate of roughly 8,300 gallons per minute – a reduction of 16% over the last two years. That has saved 390 gallons of water from leaking back into the ground, or 560,000 gallons per day.

That's enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“This leakage reduction will save nearly 205 million gallons of water per year with the added benefit of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 160 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year by decreasing the amount of time water pumps need to run,” the city said.

Since its takeover of Mountain Water, the city has invested more than $45 million into the system, including $20 million to replace 8.7 miles of water main, some of which was originally installed in 1914.