Written by: Dwight Stapleton
A hot topic of discussion today at the state and federal levels is unaccounted for water or as utility personnel commonly call – water loss. Unaccounted for water has detrimental effects on any utility. If not addressed and corrected unaccounted for water will be costly for the water system and its customers. Some may think that unaccounted for water is no problem, but, unaccounted for water can have a substantial cost.
Water loss from a utility distribution system is a growing management problem that is not confined to lost revenue. Water loss in the distribution system requires more water to be treated, which requires additional energy and chemical usage. With shrinking budgets, water systems must look at how to optimize their production and revenue. A good water loss control program, if implemented correctly, will reduce revenue loss, and could protect the public health by eliminating the threat of sanitary defects that may allow contaminants to enter the finished water.
When looking at unaccounted for water, there are many factors involved. Leaks and breaks on main lines, flushing mains, tank overflows, fire hydrant operation, inaccurate meters, service line leaks, and data errors. If each of these factors becomes part of a water loss control program, a water utility will be on its way to eliminating much of the unaccounted for water. Good documentation for estimates for leak losses gives the system the ability to account for some water loss.
Proactively Addressing water leaks can prevent lengthy service interruptions, reduce repair costs and collateral damage that may occur, and improved ability to meet higher pressure and flow required for firefighting. Communicating with the fire department will allow the water system to account for water used for hydrant testing and firefighting.
Flushing is an integral part of any water system. Operators know that flushing must be done to maintain water quality. Keeping good flushing records is a big help in the battle for water loss if good flushing records are not kept the water used cannot be accounted for.
When addressing unaccounted for water most people think that all comes from leaks or breaks in the main water lines, flushing, etc. That is not the case. It has been determined that up to 75% of unaccounted for water stems from service line leaks- main to meter- inaccurate meters and data collection errors. Inaccurate meters and data errors may be corrected easier but what about service lines? That takes more time and effort, but it is possible.
You may say-We can’t afford any of this. Take a look at the following:
Utility A produced 5 million gallons of water last year. If the minimum bill is $15/1,500 gallons, the total revenue would be $50,000. If the unaccounted for water is 33%, the lost revenue would equal $16,667. For a small community that is a lot. 1/3 of lost revenue would go a long way in addressing unaccounted for water. This should give all food for thought.
This article was submitted by the Southern RCAP, Communities Unlimited. Learn more about Communities Unlimited here.