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These Three Steps: Water Loss Control Program

Obtaining access to clean water is a problem for many developing nations around the world, but there is a different water crisis that is occurring in all of the wealthiest nations: leaks. Not just a little leak. It is estimated that the United States loses almost 8 trillion liters of water a year to leaks in the aging and faulty water systems (Schaper 2014). This isn’t just a problem in the United States. The United Kingdom estimates their losses to be 3.3 Billion liters a day (Johnson & Burton 2010). Canada estimates that 30 percent of the water that enters the supply lines is lost to leaks (Statscan 2013).

How does this happen?

Unfortunately, it happens because of ignorance. It is easy to assume that the water system is functioning at a high capacity when water travels from the treatment plants to your taps with no interruption. The problem is that many pipes are 70 years or older now, many are beneath buildings, roads, and the ground. This is a long time to hold the weight of the busy world above and to transport the resource that beats up our infrastructure most at high speeds.

This ignorance cannot just be blamed on water operators themselves when there has been very little regulation to date. There are only 29 states with any agencies mandating or incentivizing water loss control (Aclara 2015). The movement is gaining ground but it is still very easy for, excuse the pun, things to slip through the cracks.

The reason this movement has had difficulty gaining movement is mostly because of the difficulty of detecting leaks or inspecting pipes in the first place. The technology has developed and there are various ways to reach these pipes now, including the use of mini ROVs for inspections and advanced metering systems.

Effective water loss control is a multi-step process. The three steps that each water infrastructural body needs to undergo are:

  1. Water Audit
Much like your taxes, a water audit is a data heavy process that is thorough and time-consuming. It is extremely important and is gaining popularity in the movement toward leak control. American Water Works Association has popularized this method through the use of their Free Water Audit Software that allows you to compile a “top-down” analysis of your water system. This information can then be used to determine areas that lack efficiency.

  1. Component Analysis
Now that you have determined the areas in the water network that are lacking efficiency, it is possible to start planning how to intervene. Volumes of the real losses and reported losses are compiled to prioritize the leaks that require repair. This sets the course of action on a realistic path as it is impossible to finance the repair of every leak in the network.

  1. Intervention
This is the fun part. Leaks have been mapped, determined and prioritized. The faster leaks are repaired or prevented, means lesser losses incurred by a water network. Each pipe or main will have different issues that arise, whether it be accessibility or cost. It is important to remember that if leaks are focused on in the present, the losses can be prevented and our water protected. The more water that seeps into the outer walls of the network, the more damage that will be incurred to the healthy pipes around it. Repairing a leak is a much more cost-effective solution than having to repair a complete shut off of a system due to extensive pipe damage. Routine inspections are still the best method for leak prevention. That is not the only benefit from a properly run inspection cycle, learn more about inspection best practices here