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Reducing water losses: how well does your system perform?
Innovation, Utility management, Wastewater Management, Water and wastewater community,
THE BUSINESS OF IMPROVING QUALITY WHILE REDUCING LOSSES
The tap, tap, tap of water dripping from a leaky faucet bothers the hapless listener for several reasons. For homeowners, replacing an old washer in the faucet often fixes the problem, but how do water professionals go about stopping those leaks and drips that lead to non-revenue water losses?
Non-revenue water (NRW), which includes unbilled authorized consumption, apparent losses and real losses, is becoming a major point of concern for municipalities across North America. Integral to any discussion of water management is the need to deal with these issues. These include water protection, water conservation, energy savings, and ultimately cost savings and a reduced carbon footprint. From any standpoint, it only makes sense for utilities to address the issue of NRW earlier rather than later.
TIMES OF CRISIS DEMAND COURSES OF ACTION
Key areas for success in managing NRW are legislation, technology, benchmarking, and public awareness. Some of these innovations and practices are already at the forefront of the public’s understanding of water management. Twenty-four US states and one Canadian province have some form of legislation which requires water utilities to audit and report their water loss and put into place performance targets to minimize loss in their systems. In 2010, Georgia enacted its Water Stewardship Act (Senate bill 370) requiring utilities to conduct yearly water loss audits to improve efficiency and effectiveness of public water systems. The state produces yearly reports, documenting the combined efforts of utilities, municipalities and state managers to meet the goals and objectives of the legislation through training and planning, implementing best practices, and funding/loan support.
More recently, the ongoing drought in California means even greater focus on California’s new Senate Bill 555.
Current legislation aims for a 20% reduction in urban per capita use by December 31, 2020, with 10% achieved through incremental steps through December 31, 2015. The new bill requires:
- Urban water suppliers to submit annual completed and validated water loss audit reports;
- The Department of Water Resources to post publicly on its website all validated water loss audit reports to allow comparisons across water suppliers;
- The Department to also provide technical assistance to guide urban retail water suppliers’ water loss detection programs.
The most critical component requires the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt rules by July 1, 2020 requiring urban retail water suppliers to meet performance standards for the volume of water losses.
TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGY AID EFFICIENCY AND PROBLEM SOLVING
Along with the legislative support for utilities and municipalities, reducing the negative impacts of NRW is also enabled through state-of-the-art techniques to control water losses. The approaches in both Georgia and California are already aligned with the principles embedded within the existing community of professionals’ responses to the challenge. These are collaboration, data collection, validation and dissemination, information and knowledge exchange, raising public awareness, and state-of-the-art technologies for leak detection.
A great initiative is the free water audit software available from the American Water Works Association. The software offers users data compilation capabilities in order to track key performance indicators, which then allow utility operators to narrow down on the aspects of NRW which they need to address.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY TO ADRESS THE PROBLEM
Addressing NRW in a proactive manner will lead to great social and economic benefits. Reporting on progress will engage a dialogue with the public, who is increasingly requesting more visibility on the efficiency of use of their taxes and rates. To achieve better results more rapidly, especially when exploring solutions to reach economic optimum, water professionals need to share their experiences and their results. Now, on-line communities offer a great vehicle for this exchange to reach water professionals everywhere, any time.
In December 2015, the inaugural North American Water Loss Conference brought together water professionals from all over the continent to address specifically non-revenue water issues and to present innovative approaches and best practices to resolve them.
At FluksAqua, we created an online meeting place where professionals can ask questions and share solutions. Contributors to the forum discussions at FluksAqua highlight successes and share new techniques and best practices.
We encourage users to share their validated data to support greater benchmarking efforts, as well as to promote their best practices for better water management. Public data on water loss in North America will soon be available on FluksAqua’s benchmarking tool, and this will also help users assess their efforts on a wider scale.
Ongoing monitoring, data collection and dissemination help water professionals understand the scope of the problems associated with NRW. Even more importantly, these approaches support transparency by informing and engaging the public about the progress and initiatives municipalities undertake to improve water management practices.
FluksAqua is an online community dedicated to fostering open discussion on the issues and priorities of water and wastewater management professionals globally. Managing the only website dedicated to sharing information for the primary benefit of the urban water facilities user community, the members of FluksAqua represent organizations and communities who contribute key indicators to measure and compare the performance of networks globally.