Water Loss Switchboard

Getting Started


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Component Analysis

Audit Results

Real Water Loss Control

Apparent Water Loss Control

Presentations and Webinars

Comprehensive Water Loss

What is Water Loss Control?

Water loss control is a comprehensive program that starts with understanding the nature of your current situation and works through prioritizing actions to control water loss. A common first step in a water loss control program is a water audit. The purpose of a water audit is to account for all the water in the system. It is based on the theory that all water supplied into the system can be accounted for in various categories with the remainder showing up as “real water loss.” The audit starts by determining how much water is supplied, then subtracts out water that is billed to customers, water that is authorized for use but unbilled, water that is stolen from the system (water theft), water that is uncaptured due to inaccurate metering, and water that is miscounted due to data handling issues. It is this remaining water that will be identified as “real water loss” in the audit and it represents water that is leaking from mains, services, and storage tanks.  

Three categories of water loss are identified in the audit, including real water loss as described above; “apparent water loss,” which includes theft, inaccurate metering, and data handling errors; and authorized unbilled usage.  as water leaving the system either to a customer or through water leaks. These three categories are called “Non-Revenue Water” (NRW) because they represent all the water the utility produces that is not generating revenue for the utility. The level of NRW, as well as the quantity of water in each category, can help guide the utility through what actions are most appropriate to take. 

It is important to remember that water loss control encompasses many activities within the utility and takes a team effort. It includes such varied items as: pressure management; meter testing, calibration, and replacement; storage tank management; leak detection; water main repair, rehabilitation, and replacement; asset management; household side leak education; and many, many others. It is a good idea to create a water loss team to help guide your efforts and coordinate activities. This team can help with auditing, data gathering, analysis, implementing actions, and evaluating success. 


Why Should I Care?

Water loss is important for many reasons. It helps a utility ensure that its precious water resources are reaching their intended target: the customers. Any water that is leaking from pipes, service lines, and storage tanks increases the inefficiency and the cost of running the utility. While it may not be possible to reduce water loss to zero, reducing losses to a minimum (whatever level that is for an individual utility) is very important. In cases where water resources are scarce, it is even more important to address real water loss.  

 In addition to the real water loss concerns, apparent losses also represent an opportunity to increase efficiency. These losses represent money the utility is not receiving but might be able to. If meters are more accurate, the customers will receive a bill that reflects all of their usage, and the revenue to the utility may increase. If the utility addresses theft concerns, the fairness across the customer base will be increased.  

 Beyond the basics of increasing water and revenue efficiency, implementing a water loss control program can have many side benefits for a utility by identifying weaknesses in the utility operation and management, such as missing policies and procedures. 

 No matter where the utility is located or whether water resources are scarce or plentiful, a utility can benefit from implementing a water loss control program. 


Working with the SW EFC on Water Loss Control

The SW EFC has a long history of helping states, water agencies, and individual utilities understand and implement water loss auditing and control. We can work under contracts, memorandums of understanding, memorandums of agreement, or cooperative agreements. If you would like to work with the SW EFC on your water loss control project, please let us know and we would be happy to discuss such an arrangement with you. We can be reached at swefc@unm.edu or 505-277-0644.