Water loss management is an economic issue. Utilities should aim to manage losses in order to minimize overall operating costs. With any water loss reduction strategy, the lower the level of water losses achieved, the higher the cost of reducing water losses further. For this reason, it is never economic for a utility to remove all water losses. The economic optimum is the economic balance point at which the value of water lost (real or apparent losses), plus the cost to reduce the volume of real or apparent losses, is at a minimum. It is certainly best practice to determine the economic optimum point for both the real losses and the apparent losses in order to see if there is room for economically justifiable real and/or apparent loss reductions.
Models to determine the long-term economic optimum volume of water loss, like used in England and Wales, for example, can be highly complex and very labour- and data-intensive.
However, by using a short-term economic analysis, which is basically transferring water loss volumes into values and comparing them to the cost of intervention, a much less labour and data intensive approach exists to provide a utility with the economic water loss benchmarks it needs to determine its optimum intervention program. Each water system will have different types and degrees of loss and each has a potential solution and each solution has a cost. However, before the cost to benefit ratio can be defined the potential solutions have to be identified and graded technically. In addition to having a good return or cost to benefit, it is also important when considering intervention to take into account the local conditions and the sustainability of the method or solution adopted. Water losses don't go away they keep on coming back. Water loss control is not a one-time exercise it is a continuous and changing solution to an ever-changing problem.
See Chap. 9 for a detailed discussion on determining the economic optimum volume of water loss.
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