Non-Revenue Water Trends to Watch This Year

faucet and dollar signs

By Simon Wick

With another year behind us, we are excited about what innovation, collaboration and strategies are trending for non-revenue water (NRW) in 2023.

However, five old industry challenges remain certain for the foreseeable future:

  • Our aging infrastructure is still of great concern.
  • We still have a severe labor shortfall.
  • We still have a funding shortfall.
  • We still have a lot of work to do to reduce NRW; especially when it relates to real losses (leaks).
  • Climate change is having a greater impact every day.

The industry is slowly moving away from one-time surveys and the traditional lift n’ shift approach. Although these strategies still have some great value, over the years, with education and innovation, the industry recognizes these strategies have limited, long-term effects on reducing and maintaining any water supplier’s non-revenue water.

Instead, the key focus is on long-term strategies and higher return on investment, such as permanent leak sensors, pressure management and even District Metered Areas (DMAs) in certain states. Of course, smart cities solutions and AMI suppliers continue to expand their NRW solutions, and due to the significant cost savings, often extended battery life and some other key benefits these suppliers can offer under their existing infrastructure, the industry is hungry for these additions.

One such offering is the Kamstrup flowIQ 2200 ALD (acoustic leak detection) meter which, as the name suggests, can easily detect any given leak (main, service pipes and fittings) in a water system and offer a 20-year battery life. As the ALD is an integrated part of the meter itself, the solution offers the customer an efficient and low-maintenance leak detection solution. This solution is unique in other ways too. It’s a solid-state meter with no moving parts with a low flow start rate of just 0.01 GPM.

Thus, this solution can increase revenue and address a water supplier’s apparent and real loss at the same time simply by changing out the aging meter system.

However, I believe the biggest trend in our industry will be teamwork. Without collaboration our industry will not succeed in the quest to reduce global NRW. With great leadership, passion and by combining our technologies and intelligence we can succeed in our mission. There isn’t one solution that will solve the global NRW problem; life just isn’t that simple. For example, you can’t expect to identify a leak on a ¾-in. PVC supply pipe using the same technology and strategy as we do for a leak on a 48-in. concrete transmission main.

Because of this need for team work there are many companies growing their business due to acquiring NRW-related technology and/or service-driven businesses as they seek out further market growth in this sector. We are also seeing more success stories where water systems combine technologies, such as pressure management with acoustic leak sensors or DMAs with acoustic leak sensors. There will be more of that to come. The combined technologies are a key strategy in the success of a long-term NRW program.

Even reporting NRW and real loss may look different in 2023 and beyond. In 2022 the Leakage Emissions Initiative was formed. This initiative, with key members from across the globe, is establishing a Leakage emissions index to incentivize NRW management and CO2 emissions reductions. The goal is to promote funding into our industry for decarbonizing our energy infrastructure. As energy is used to distribute water, every gallon lost due to a leak equates to energy lost and CO2 emitted. Thus, if we start to report NRW in CO2 as well as the standard gallons and dollars, this one simple move could well be a game changer for our industry.

Finally, one thing is for sure. Just like everything else in daily life, our industry is no different. We demand our data to be reliable, accurate, repeatable, quick and informative so that we can make data driven decisions. So, whatever NRW innovation we will see in 2023, we can expect it to be on our phones ASAP!

Simon Wick is a solution manager for Kamstrup. He has three decades of international water industry and non-revenue water experience. He successfully led a UK water company’s NRW department and has since assisted many U.S. water utilities with NRW and leakage programs. Wick is a long-term member of AWWA and the current chair of the AWWA Real Loss Sub Committee.

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