The Brave New World of Apparent Loss Detection

Why Apparent Loss Matters

Attention to curbing water loss in utilities has soared over the past 5 years. In 2015 the first North American Water Loss Conference was held in College Park, GA marking the first national water loss conference in the United States.  In 2013 the EPA published a paper stressing the importance of water auditing and water loss control. Water Loss reporting  is now regulated in place in 3 states (GA, CA, HI), with several more to join in coming years. The State of California through Executive Order B-37-16and the Cal-Nevada AWWA through its Water Loss Technical Assistance Program continue to promote water audits as a step forward in reducing water loss across California.  

While the curbing of overall non-revenue water is the overall goal of these programs and regulations, we have been paying particular attention to a sub-category of total water loss, referred to as apparent loss.

Defining Apparent Loss

Apparent loss is a sub category of total water loss, at a water utility.  As defined by the American Water Works Association, “Apparent losses are the non-physical losses that occur in utility operations due to customer meter inaccuracies, systematic data handling errors in customer billing systems and unauthorized consumption. In other words, this is water that is consumed but is not properly measured, accounted or paid for.”[i]  

Why Apparent Losses Allude Detection

Apparent losses do not typically have a physical or visible signal, such as a water leak.  The pesky places where apparent losses reside and sap financial value from a utility are within customer billing systems, in information transfer processes between field operators and customer service systems, via theft, and within mechanical wear on meters themselves.  Water utilities rarely have ironclad systems in place to monitor and troubleshoot any one of these areas, much less all of them.

Why the stakes are high

Water utilities in 2017 face real revenue and regulatory pressures.  Revenue pressures driven by drought, conserving customers and rising costs are placing great pressure on water utilities to develop new revenue strategies. At the same time, regulatory pressures now mandate that utilities measure and then resolve, long-standing non-revenue water issues.  Although few utility managers and operators enjoy regulations, the interesting thing about apparent loss regulations is that adhering to monitoring of Apparent Loss brings in money.  Few general managers would disagree that additional revenue that can be recovered from the existing system is a good thing for the utility and their customers.

Advanced Apparent Loss Detection across the United States

Valor Water’s Hidden Revenue Locator is an apparent loss detection tool that monitors every meter in a utility system every hour (AMI) or every month (manual or AMR). On average, this tool locates an apparent loss issue on 5% of meters per year.  Once corrected by an operator or IT resource, this amounts to, at least, 1% of annual revenue, back in the coffers of the water utility.

Utilities nationwide are adopting this technology at a break speed pace, for utilities that is. Valor’s apparent loss detection technology is running today in 6 states (CA, GA, PA, IN, NJ, FL) and locating tens of thousands of dollars a month for these utilities. In coming weeks, I will present results from each of the nine indicators that our Hidden Revenue Locator tool detects so you can see these results and think about where the money may be hiding in your utility.

[i] American Water Works Association (2012) “Water Loss Control: Apparent and Real Losses” Online resource.