Water Loss in the Great Lakes Region
Water utilities are stewards of public and environmental health by sustainably supplying drinking water. In the United States, drinking water infrastructure is remarkable in its coverage and reliability. However, much of the nation’s essential water infrastructure was installed fifty to one hundred years ago and is now deteriorating faster than rehabilitation efforts can combat. This deterioration inevitably means an increase in leaks and water loss across a distribution system.
This challenge necessitates that water managers embrace tools to reduce leaks and improve supply-side efficiency, the distribution of water with minimal volumes of water lost to leakage Many water distribution systems have accumulated significant inefficiencies that negatively impact customers. Typically, water distribution systems lose between 5% and 25% of the treated water they supply to leakage. To counteract these leakage losses, utilities must produce additional water and often increase customer rates. Additionally, most utilities have not studied their distribution efficiency and so do not appreciate the volumes of water they lose continually and pervasively to leakage.
Fortunately, water loss can be measured and managed through water loss audits. Water auditing has been established as a standardized best practice by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and new methods have been adopted that can assist with accurate assessments of water losses. With support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Alliance for Water Efficiency and Water Systems Optimization were able to work with two case study utilities in the Great Lakes Region to perform water loss audits for their systems. The audits were performed using the AWWA’s free Water Audit Software, an Excel-based tool. Once the audits were complete, a leakage profile was developed for each utility using the Water Research Foundation’s free Real Loss Component Analysis Tool to determine what areas of the system need prioritized attention. Using these tools, a leakage breakdown was developed for each of the participating utilities.