10 ways to reduce water loss

A step-by-step guide to reduce water loss and non-revenue water in the distribution system

A step-by-step guide to reduce water loss in the distribution system

Non-revenue water (NRW) is water that is produced and cleaned and then lost somewhere in the water distribution system before reaching the customer, or it can be water that is for other reasons unaccounted for. This is a global problem with NRW levels ranging from about 5% to as much as 80% in certain areas. But why is water even lost, and what are the options available?

10 steps to beat the leaks in water systems

1. Aim for efficient leakage recovery

One of the primary causes of water loss is leaking pipes and equipment due to bursts or breaks. It is not an easy task to locate a leak in a huge distribution network, and it can take days, weeks or even years before a leak is even noticed. Therefore, preventive activities and efficient leakage management is essential.

2. Divide the distribution network into sections

If you try to cope with water losses in the whole distribution network at once, you will need to work in a reactive, passive manner, where activities are initiated only when a water loss becomes visible or is reported.

An efficient technique to obtain an overview of what is going on below ground, is to divide the supply network into sections, also referred to as district metering areas (DMAs). Water loss can then be calculated for each section, and operators are able to better plan and prioritise their efforts.

3. Fast assessment and repair

Operators can act more efficiently, when the network is separated into DMAs. Immediate action can save vital resources and will cause less disturbance for network customers, who depend on a continuous water supply.

By investing in a targeted leak detection program, it will in most distribution systems be possible to reduce the overall leakage by at least 40–50%.

4. Monitor network activities

Leakages can easily be detected through noise loggers integrated in e.g. ground-level surface boxes. The loggers react to the sound of leaking water and enable operators to act immediately.

It is also possible to measure and manage water pressure in the different areas of the supply network by using the technique of DMAs.

5. Pressure management

Pressure management is considered the single most beneficial, important and cost-effective leakage management activity. The higher the pressure in the distribution network is, the more water is lost through bursts or leakages in the network. Furthermore, most pipe bursts occur due to ongoing pressure fluctuations forcing the pipes to continuously expand and contract, resulting in stress fractures.

Control valves maintain a certain pressure, flow or level regardless of changes in the supply network. They are essential for pressure management, as they can assist in reducing water losses while upholding the best conditions for the network equipment.

Pressure management is also an efficient way of reducing unnecessary energy consumption. The pressure can be adjusted to the critical point at a strategic consumer in the DMA, meaning that energy will not be spend on pumping water to a higher pressure than necessary. Also, by allowing for a lower pressure in general, especially during off-peak hours, energy consumption for pumping can be reduced.

Learn more about pressure management.

6. Use all available data and think smart

Collecting and acting on data is very important when aiming for efficient management of a network. Valuable real-time data can be collected in various ways from installed products throughout the network, making it possible to obtain demand-driven management.

As an example, a control valve with an added controller can receive data from several inputs and can operate accordingly, based on inputs regarding flow, pressure, network losses, temperature, open/close position, and maintenance requirement periods.

7. Set an NRW limit and follow up

Once the NRW is reduced to an acceptable level, the operations staff should arrange monitoring of the water balance for each DMA. It makes sense to set an intervention limit, determining the level at which NRW becomes unacceptable. When the intervention limit is reached, the operators should detect and resolve losses. This will ensure quick assessment and action.

8. Handle illegal consumption

Water theft, illegal connections and unauthorised use is a huge problem in many parts of the world. Dividing the supply network into sections (DMAs) is an efficient way to get an overview of illegal consumption and where it takes place.

Also, there are practical ways to secure easy targets such as hydrants. Through monitoring, the hydrant can send a notification when the cover is opened. Learn more about hydrant monitoring.

9. Quality products and solutions

High-quality products and solutions are the backbone in any efficient water system. The expenses and complications linked to choosing poor quality and easy fixes are by far exceeded by the ones of a solid, well-planned solution. Learn more about what to expect doing business with us.

10. Training and education

Water loss is a critical issue in many parts of the world and not only in developing countries. To overcome the challenges, we need to increase awareness of the many already known and well-proven techniques for efficient water management.

Knowledge sharing is key to ensure that the water sector is ready to meet the needs of tomorrow. This concerns technical solution insights as well as a holistic view on the complete journey of water throughout society; from ground to tap and safely back into nature.

At AVK, we focus strongly on building partnerships for the innovation of even better solutions. We are part of several consortiums, including the LEAKman project which is a leakage management association of nine Danish water companies focusing exclusively on solutions for optimised leakage management. We have also initiated a summer school on advanced water cycle management, where students and representatives from all over the world can learn, share their experiences and expand their network. The summer school is hosted in Denmark every August.


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