Water Audit Data Validity
Water utilities and various water industry stakeholders are embracing the IWA/AWWA water audit methodology and many water utilities are now compiling a water audit on an annual basis. However, for many first-time auditors, the completeness and trust-worthiness of the available data is questionable. This condition speaks to the issue of data validity. While the audit can be completed and the performance indicators calculated quickly, how confident can the water utility manager be in those results if it is believed that much of the data entered into the water audit is of marginal quality? The quality of the water audit outputs (performance indicators) is only as reliable as the quality of the data inputs.
No water utility has perfect data, and all data are subject to some degree of error. Data of low validity exists if the quantification method applied is cursory (such as use of rough estimates). However, even data that is quantified in a robust manner can be low validity if the quantification is not kept up to date. If the water auditing process is instituted as a standard, annual business practice, a two-fold goal should exist to both compile the water audit, and to incrementally utilize detailed investigative “bottom-up” activities to improve the quality, completeness and timeliness of the water audit data. Improved operations and water efficiency often also result as data quality improves.