How to Conserve Water When You're Losing It

Three percent of water on our planet is freshwater and only 1 percent is suitable for drinking, so it’s not difficult to see that water conservation is an important issue for the planet – and one that can save utilities and their customers money.

Conservation is good for the planet and your bottom line, but it’s not as easy as asking your customers to use less water, especially when your system is losing water because it’s aging and in poor repair. An estimated 2.1 trillion gallons – or 6 billion gallons a day – are lost each year, and 240,000 water main breaks occur annually.

Much of the country’s one million miles of water lines are approaching the end of their usable lifespan. More than 40 percent of water infrastructure is considered poor, very poor or elapsed, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has consistently given the nation’s infrastructure failing grades.

Of $200 billion needed to update aging infrastructure to meet regulatory requirements and quantity and quality concerns, approximately $97 billion, or 29 percent, will be needed for water loss control. The average loss is 16 percent through loss and theft, and 75 percent of that is recoverable.

Losses can come from authorized, but unbilled consumption; unauthorized consumption, or theft; and data handling errors and metering inaccuracies.

In fact, an audit of the entire system is a great opportunity to find places where water is being lost because of failing pipes. A data audit can look to compare authorized and unbilled consumption, billed consumption and unauthorized and unbilled consumption.

Non-revenue losses, including real losses from leaking pipes, apparent losses from billing and meter errors and both authorized and unauthorized, unmetered use, can stack up. Leaks can cause damage to other infrastructure, such as roadways and sewers, and even to customers’ homes, while large breaks can be costly both in cash and good will.

An American Water Works Association assessment of 246 utilities’ water audits found a collective apparent loss of more than 29 billion gallons at a cost of $151 million. At the same time, real losses because of leaks was more than 130 billion gallons.

A water audit, including physical inspections, flow analysis and leak detection tools such as sonic leak detectors and visual inspections, will help determine where these real losses are most likely originating from and which ones are in greatest need of repair through pipeline and asset management. Pipeline management is a plan for maintaining, repairing and replacing old pipes and installing new ones based on condition and demand.

The AWWA also notes that the great majority of hidden leaks are found in customer service lines – and they are not repaired in a timely or efficient manner.

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program, administered by Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe company, partners with municipalities and utilities to provide service line repair plans to homeowners. Customers with a repair plan are more likely to have a leak fixed more quickly, thereby wasting less water. Through this program, a customer simply makes one phone call to our toll free number 24/7/376 to have a local, insured and licensed plumber promptly dispatched. For more information, please contact us.