Historic Water Supply and Milestones in Water Loss Control

Water distribution systems have been in use for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all captured, treated, and distributed water in ways not dissimilar to those we use today. The technology has changed, however, the basics remain much the same:

• Primary lift stations

• Pumping or gravity supply

• Transmission system

• Distribution system

• Customer service connection piping, some with, and some without water meters

Even ancient people were concerned with controlling their water losses. Around 40 million gal of water per day were supplied to ancient Rome through a network of 260 mi (420 km) of pipe work and channels. The pipelines and channels were made of brick and stone with cement linings along with some lead pipes.7 It appears that service connections were 20 mm or % in with simple stopcock arrangements, not so different to what we use today! The first system was installed in 312 B.C. There were approximately 250 reservoir sites and the system was gravity fed. A commissioner and his team consisting of engineers, technicians, workers, and clerks administered this system. One of the priority jobs was to locate and repair leaks.

The durability of the workmanship of the ancient aqueducts is evidenced by the fact that one system installed between A.D. 98 and 117 is still in use in Spain. Not many water systems, or infrastructure of any kind, can boast such a history!

Innovations in water distribution system management evolved as community water systems became standard infrastructure in developing countries. Important developments included

• 1800s: Formulas for unavoidable leakage (Kuichling)

• 1800s: Pitot rod district measurements

• 1800s: Simple wooden sounding rods

• 1900s: Simple mechanical geophones

• 1900s: First mechanical meter recording devices are used

• Circa 1940s: First electronic geophones and listening devices are introduced

• Circa 1970s: First computerized leak noise correlators come into play

• Circa 1980s: First battery-operated data-loggers come into play

• Circa 2000: Digital equipment and GIS-linked equipment is used for leak detection

• 2000: International Water Association issues recommendations for a standardized water audit and performance indicators for water supply services, including unavoidable annual real losses (UARL) and the infrastructure leakage index (ILI).

Innovations in accountability and loss control continue to occur and cost-effective technology is not usually the limiting factor in implementing a sound water loss control program. Often the greatest challenge in creating a water-efficient system is the need to muster the managerial and political will to launch the water loss control program into existence.

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