Access to clean water is in many places taken for granted, just like the fresh air we breathe. We forget that clean water is a product, and that producing enough is actually a comprehensive, detailed process.
And resources are scarce. By adding inadequate distribution management, we are faced with a more invisible, yet crucial problem: water loss, also referred to as non-revenue water, or NRW.
Non-revenue water is basically produced, cleaned water which is lost somewhere in the water distribution system, never reaching its final destination. This means water not used or paid for, affecting local economies as well as local resources available. The problem is universal, ranging from NRW levels of about 5 % to as much as 80 % in certain areas.
Global water loss has been estimated to 126 billion cubic metres per year, equivalent to the cost of $39 billion each year. Could these water losses be reduced by only one-third, the savings would be enough to supply 800 million people (Liemberger & Wyatt, 2018).
The reasons for water losses are many, ranging from leakages, pipe bursts, and poor water management to illegal connections and unauthorised consumption. But luckily, so are the available solutions - and their benefits.
Dividing the network and focusing efforts
Therefore, dividing the supply network into smaller sections - district metering areas (DMA) - is a more efficient technique; it is then possible to calculate water losses individually, and operators are able to better plan and prioritise their efforts.
Leakages can easily be detected through noise loggers integrated in ground-level surface boxes, enabling operators to set in exactly when and where needed. This secures quick repair, meaning less water lost and a minimum disturbance of the network customers.
By investing in a targeted leak detection program, it is in most places possible to reduce the overall leakage in the distribution system by at least 40–50 %.
By using DMAs, it is also possible to measure and manage the water pressure in the different areas of the water supply network.
Learn more about pressure management, and how this is helpful in reducing NRW levels.