Non-Revenue-Water, water spillage globally


waterspillage globally

Today’s situation

The global volume of NRW has been estimated by IWA in 2018 at 126 billion cubic metres a year. Extrapolated to 2023 we conservatively come to over 150 billion cubic metres a year. Conservatively valued at  U$.0,45 per cubic metre, the cost/value of water lost amounts to U$.67,5 billion a year.   Not only is this an enormous financial concern, but elevated NRW also detracts from water utilities, in a time of increasing scarcity and climate change, from reaching their goals of full service coverage, at a reliable level of service at an affordable price.

Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the USA, has a capacity of 35 billion cubic metres. The Bodensee in Europe has  a capacity of 48 billion cubic metres. We are globally spilling lake Mead more than four times a year.

25% of the cost of water is electricity: treatment of  water to make it potable and pumping the water through the distribution system. 25% of U$.67,5 billion = U$.16,9 billion at U$.0,15 Kwh = 112,54 billion KW =  112.540.000 Megawatts/365/24 = 12.882 Kwh capacity is needed. It means we require two large nuclear plants to provide the power to support the water spillage.

What has caused this

A few factors have played a large role to create this situation, e.g.:

  • Population growth has caused municipalities to focus on extending the urban water infrastructure rather than maintaining the existing network. A pipeline of good quality has a lifespan of 50 years, meaning 2% should be replaced every year.
  • Privatization of water utilities has led to bad maintenance of urban water networks, these privatised utilities in general don’t serve the public but the shareholder.
  • Lack of knowledge of the urban pipe network: in many countries the utilities do not know where all the pipes are situated, how old they are and if they are leaking. Mapping the pipe network is where it all starts.
  • Prioritising agricultural water needs above urban water needs, no incentives for farmers and water spilling industries to start saving water. Price discrimination for prioritized sectors. Subsidizing urban water consumption and thus promoting water spillage.
  • Red tape: are budgets appointed for replacing pipes really spent for pipe laying ? It is not always in the interest of the water utility management to know what the Non-Revenue losses are as some transactions might go without invoicing from the water utility.

What can we do immediately to reduce water spillage in the network

  • Start mapping the network
  • Start detecting/monitoring the leaks
  • Determine which District Metering Area’s (DMA) are in the worst condition (most leakage)
  • Determine if the DMA can be isolated from the rest of the network
  • Make a plan to implement real time pressure management of the DMA
  • Implement the real time pressure management system and start saving water from day one.

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