Utility Water Loss or Unaccounted for Water may be Costing You more then you Think.
Utility Water Loss from Water Leaks are headline stories whenever and wherever they occur. A water main break is severe and the rushing water can damages homes, property, roads and even drops trucks and cars into the void they leave behind. The cost of these breaks is high and the property damage is severe. This however is only one of the places where loss water can occur.
Loss water if not properly tracked and accounted for can be costing you big money in your rates and here is why?
Water is lost through water main breaks, fires, metering problems, service leaks, flushing programs, construction use, street sweeping, fire department practice, theft, and plant maintenance. These items if not properly tracked add up to unaccounted for water. Some of the items will be a cost to operation even if they are properly tracked however by knowing the ones you can track you obtain an accurate number for those you need to find.
A well ran utility should be able to keep unaccounted for water at below 8% of its total annual finished water. I ran a large utility for 32 years and when I took over the unaccounted water was at 19%. That was not acceptable or necessary. After three years of effort that number fell below 4% for the next 29 years.
Here is what happens to unaccounted for water. It costs a given amount of money to produce every gallon of water for retail sale. If a percentage of the water is lost then it is not paid for at the retail rate or any rate for that matter. The cost of producing that water is still paid. At the next rate case those costs are rolled into the rate and guess who pays for the unaccounted for water? If you guessed the consumer then you are 100% right. As customers you and I pay for water the Utility should be selling and keeping our rates lower.
Water Main Breaks: Utility Water Loss should be recorded and based on main size, pressure, and size of break as well as pumping records at time of break and accurate account of that water loss can be made. This water must still be paid for but if tracked it can be subtracted from amount that is unaccounted for so that remaining amount can be tracked accurately.
Other water use in that category is:
Water Treatment process: This is water used in producing the finished water for your use. This water should be metered but if not it must be estimated for tracking purposes.
Hydrant Flushing: This is a maintenance practice can contribute to a large Utility Water Loss number if not tracked properly. The process is necessary to keep the utility lines clear, hydrants functioning and water quality at a high level. During this process a flow test should be performed so records of how much water is flowed in a minute can be formulated. This information should be used to track water consumed in flushing as well as for Fire department use on which hydrants provide best fire fighting flows.
These water totals can be used to find the true unaccounted for water by subtracting them from the total amount of metered water in the billing system.
If the utility is well ran they will require water meters on street sweepers and construction users to meter and charge for that water. If meters are not required then estimates of consumption must be made to adjust for usage and track the ever elusive Utility Water Loss number..
Fires can be estimated by requiring fire departments to report which hydrant they used and for how long. The flow information collected during flushing can then be applied to the time the hydrant ran and an accurate account of water arrived at. This water should be billed to the homeowner for the insurance company to pay as part of the fire cost.
Once these numbers are settled on you have three remaining factors:
*Unidentified Utility Water Leaks: These are breaks in service lines or mains that are running but finding a sewer or a way to vent without being noticed. Unidentified leaks will drive the Utility Water Loss number through the roof.
*Inaccurate Meters: These are meters that are running slow from age or have a build up or defect which is hindering their accuracy.
*Theft: This is water that is taken without authorization.
Utility Water Leaks
These are something that will always be occurring; however the number can be reduced and length of run time shortened by accurate leak detection programs. These can be performed by the utility with the proper equipment and training or by a professional company. I prefer the outside company from experience. I would recommend The M.E> Simpson Company out of Valparaiso, Indiana and Phoenix, Arizona. They have an excellent track record and helped our utility considerably in reducing system leakage which in turn lowers the Utility Water Loss number.
Water Meters: Water Meters do one thing as they age and that is slow down. A utility must have a routine meter replacement program for meters 2" and smaller and a large meter maintenance program for 3" and larger meters. A meter that under registers water means that water is used but not paid for. This water must then go into the rate for everyone to pay for. By maintaining accurate meters everyone pays for what they use. M. E, Simpson is again my choice for these programs. Small meter replace can be done in house but large meter repair is best handled by a well ran and trusted firm.
Theft: Once the remaining issues are addressed you can begin to calculate possible theft and from that number apply a cost to the theft. If that number is significant a program to watch for thieves is warranted. The public is a the best set of eyes so if you see someone taking water make a call to the Utility and you may be saving you and all the customers from paying for theft.
Once the Utility Water Loss number is brought down and kept there by continuous programs the waste of water is reduced and the cost is not in your rates. Get involved and call your utility and ask what is our unaccounted for water. If it is not under 8% then demand that they do something to get it there. Watch for a rate case and contest the rate change until that unaccounted for number is satisfied. You will be surprised what can happen when you take an interest.
Lowering Utility Water Loss numbers and Home Energy audits
save you money.