The Need for Meaningful Regulations

When looking at the success stories of leakage management on a country by country base it is evident that the countries where water loss management is succeeding are those where well-structured and balanced federal or state water loss management regulations are in place. The United States largely lacks such structure; however a lack of uniform and proactive regulations is not limited to the United States since a similar lack of recognition of water loss problems exists around the world.

Many areas of the United States have suffered significant periods of drought in the past 20 years. A severe drought in California from 1987 to 1992 triggered strict customer demand restrictions, yet very little emphasis was placed on the need for water suppliers to accurately quantify and manage their water losses.

Severe drought in parts of the United States has been a primary reason why customer water conservation programs have become well established and backed by regulations and incentives coming from federal and state levels. Many of these programs, however, would not exist had local, state, or federal regulations failed to be enacted. In the United States, it is inevitable that meaningful, industry-wide accountability and loss control improvements will come about as new federal regulations are passed requiring such. The highly fragmented water regulatory structure in the United States makes regulatory decisions and structures highly complex; however, federal and state regulatory authorities should strongly consider the need to begin to formulate a basic regulatory structure to motivate water suppliers to assess and manage their water losses in accordance with recognized best management practices. The 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act are a good example that federal regulations can be applied to the U.S. drinking water industry. These regulations motivated new programs and structures that have clearly increased the quality of drinking water across the United States. Similarly, a regulatory structure for water accountability and loss control is possible in the United States; but awareness of the issues must be heightened and political will has to be mustered.

As discussed, there have been many very positive changes in the U.S. water industry since the start of the new millennium, with several states and regulatory authorities adopting and/or promoting standardized water loss management. The authors believe that it is only a matter of time until efficient water loss management is required on a federal level in the United States, with many projected benefits for water consumers, water utilities, and the environment.

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