Water Loss Management in the United States

The United States is a country truly blessed with bountiful natural resources. Water is a primary resource that has been consistently developed to help the country grow to the level of strength and prosperity that it enjoys today. Unfortunately, the availability of plentiful water during the country's early history may have contributed to a water supply infrastructure and American psyche that now tolerates significant water loss. A general lack of awareness of this fact by the public and many water supply professionals is a large part of the problem.

Today the U.S. drinking water industry is facing growing challenges in providing water supplies necessary to sustain the country's economic and population growth. Some of the fastest growing cities in the United States, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, are located in semiarid and arid climates. Water resources are limited in these dry areas, requiring developing and transporting water supplies from very distant sources. The Colorado River is a critical lifeline of water supply, but often runs dry at its mouth to the Gulf of California while its waters provide supply to several states which are often at odds with each other on how best to manage the river while achieving their water supply goals.1

The last 20 years have seen water restrictions due to multiyear droughts become routine in many areas while the development of new sources has become less attractive

Hany utilities use "pencil" audits as a way of hiding their real volume of water losses. This practice reflects a lack of a regional or national priority for water loss control and is especially surprising in cases where the same utilities are asking their customers to conserve water or are planning to tap into new water resources.

and costlier due to enhanced water quality and environmental protections, coupled with funding constraints. Despite these pressures, water loss policy is still not adequately addressed at the national level even though the water saved through reduction of water loss represents one of the least expensive new sources of water.

The term water accountability has been used casually in the United States for the last several decades to label a variety of activities that impact the delivery efficiency of water utilities. Historically in the United States, water accountability practices (unaccounted-for water percentages) have existed more as art than science, with methods often generating as much confusion as explanation in interpreting water loss conditions. Symptomatically, this confusion stemmed from inconsistent terminology, unreliable percentage measures, and a lack of procedures to rationally evaluate and compare water loss performance. On a broader level; however, outdated water accountability methods are a weak discipline due to the lack of awareness of the extent of water loss occurring in the United States. Lacking recognition is a significant concern for many water industry stakeholders, no national agenda exists for water utilities to reliably quantify or control their losses

o consistent national methods are employed in the United States to quantify water loss accurately—however, there are strong signs of change in a number of state and regional governments!

Conversely, the field of water conservation has become a well-structured discipline in a number of states; achieving considerable success in limiting unnecessary water consumption; particularly in the dry regions of the country where significant population growth is occurring and water is both limited and expensive. Water conservation focuses largely on water reductions by the end user by improving usage efficiency and reducing waste. It has achieved recognition at the national level with legislation in place that sets requirements for household water appliances and other water uses. The National Alliance for Water Efficiency is launching, with the support of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), a multitude of successful regional water conservation efforts on a national scale. USEPA has also recently launched its WaterSense Program and water appliances are sold with a WaterSense label, just as appliances have carried an EnergyStar energy efficiency rating for many years. Unfortunately, supply side losses occurring due to leakage and poor accounting by water utilities are often many times greater than the end-user savings achieved through conservation; yet are still not adequately recognized.

he success of many water conservation efforts in the United States sets the stage for improved structures to motivate water loss control; particularly since water loss management offers the ability to supplement conservation savings many times over with the often high volume savings potential of water loss recovery.

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