5 Reasons a Prudent Water Utility Engineer Cares About Apparent Water Loss

I think about apparent water loss every day, but not every water utility professional does.  In this short blog, I list and discuss 5 reasons all water utility engineers should care about apparent water loss. Drop me a line and let me know if you agree, or not, at [email protected].

1)     Apparent Loss is Under collection of Revenue to Which Utility is Entitled

According to Water Research Foundation, apparent losses in American water utilities account for annual water loss of 58,774 MG and annual financial loss of $489M (on average).  With over $3.2 trillion in water infrastructure investments needed to modernize our nation’s decaying pipes, tunnels, and reservoirs, money from resolving apparent losses can go a long way.

To boot, water utilities in California took a large revenue hit during the drought. By simply addressing apparent losses, up to 5% of total operating revenues can flow back into the utilities’ operating budget.

2)     Apparent Water Loss introduces Degree of Error in Quantifying Customer Consumption

We have seen examples of concerns over error in measuring demand due to meter inaccuracy in places like New York City where a large supply tunnel is scheduled to go off line for repairs, and city officials want to verify that they can meet demand through the other two tunnels.  The question they must ask themselves is this: Is the metered estimation of customer consumption accurate enough for them to plan for decreased supply?  That is, do they trust the reads of the over 800,000 meters that provide customer consumption data?

As New York City officials fall in to the prudent category, they are engaged in multiple projects to make sure their measurements are correct.

3)     Apparent Water Loss Can Impact Credit Rating

As the credit rating agencies get more sophisticated in how they assess water utility credit, they are now using revenue protection measures, data from water loss audits, and revenue risk factors into consideration when they make a credit determination. Ceres has a great series of articles on this topic. Water loss rates are mentioned throughout. 

4)      Regulatory Compliance: GA & CA (Water Stewardship Act and SB 555)

According to the water audit gurus, Will Jernigan and Steve Cavanaugh, mandatory water loss reporting is steadily making its way through the nation.  As of 2014, 10 states had water loss regulatory or policy framework per AWWA M36 method. In 2017, this number approaches 15 states. Lucky you if you reside in one of these states as you can rest assured that your utility operators are working hard to deliver you clean and affordable water with state regulators overseeing this effort.

Figure 1 States with water loss regulatory or policy framework per AWWA M36 method (in red)

5)     Customer water leaks can be better detected with accurate meters.

Customer side water leaks can lead to property damage, wasted water, and unnecessary high bills. A recent study conducted by East Bay Municipal Utility District in Northern California found a relationship between meter inaccuracy and failure to detect small customer water leaks.  With more accurate meters and meters that read at a smaller gpm resolution a utility can detect smaller customer leaks. With a communication plan, customers can receive a notice and take corrective action. 

Conclusion

Apparent water loss is smaller in gallons but is important as it impacts customers and utilities’ bottom line.  Valor Water is leading the industry to make apparent loss detection more cost effective.  Stay tuned or contact us to find out more.

Read my last blog post on A Brave New World for Apparent Loss Detection here.