Combating water loss is one of the most important challenges of our time. Global demand is anticipated to increase along with population rises, while climate change is expected to exacerbate water stress issues like droughts.
Water loss can happen in various places, but a considerable amount occurs within the distribution network itself due predominantly to underground water pipe leaks, among other things. According to estimates, in the UK alone, 2,954 million liters of water leak from the nationwide water system every day. Not only does this waste an important resource, but it also costs companies money and damages vital infrastructure. Mitigating water loss at the utility level is therefore paramount.
To do this, modernizing aging water systems is critical, and it should start with a simple but effective solution: smart meters. Smart metering systems that utilize a cloud platform can more effectively and quickly identify and monitor water loss in order to prevent it, save resources, reduce maintenance costs and provide more accurate billing information.
What are the causes and effects of municipal water loss?
Typically, the biggest issue for water companies and municipalities is fixing leakages that are difficult to locate. In the US, water utilities operate extensive treatment and piping infrastructure that process over 42 billion gallons of water withdrawn from water sources each day, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency. The scale of these systems means that finding faults can be a challenge in and of itself. What's more, infrastructure is often aging and, in many cases, near the end of its intended design life.
Without scalable smart solutions, it's inevitable such vast, labyrinthine legacy networks will encounter leaks, breaks and spills. And if these problems are not efficiently remedied, just as inevitable is the rise in associated costs.
A 2020 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) found that households face drastically higher water loss costs over the next two decades—up to $14 billion—due to declining infrastructure and service interruptions.
Pipe leaks accounted for the loss of $7.6 billion in treated water in 2019. This waste, which is attributed to rising water main breaks, is projected to more than double by 2039, reaching $16.7 billion. According to the ASCE, between 2012 and 2018, the rate at which these incidents occurred in the US rose by a quarter to approximately 300,000 breaks a year, or more than one every two minutes. Without action, the report predicts that the businesses that depend the most on water could spend $250 billion on service irregularities in 2039.
Additionally, inaccuracies due to metering problems or record-keeping can cause frustrating billing headaches for customers and utilities alike, such as delays in issuing demands and receiving payments, which drive up admin costs.