Pinpointing the Problems: A Conversation with Aquarius Spectrum CEO Oded Fruchtman

Editor’s Note: As reducing non-revenue water remains front and center for water utilities, we sat down with Oded Fruchtman, CEO of Israeli leak detection technology provider Aquarius Spectrum, for his perspective on how the market stands on a global scale with regard to water loss management practices. Fruchtman has more than 20 years of experience working with utilities around the globe to solve their water loss problems.

Oded Fruchtman

Fruchtman

Water Finance & Management: What do you see as the primary causes of high water loss rates in the U.S. and around the world? Aging infrastructure? Neglected water systems in need of repair?

Fruchtman: The primary cause for high water loss is lack of good monitoring tools to alert on hidden leaks. The lack of good tools to analyze the condition of the pipes can cause utilities to replace the old pipes rather than the rotten ones. Extreme weather conditions that shift from cold to warm may also cause a high number of bursts in cold areas in the United States and around the world. And, of course, aging pipes (some exist more than 100 years) with low maintenance generally result in high water loss rates.

WF&M: What is the biggest challenge facing water utilities when it comes to reducing non-revenue water?

Fruchtman: Having the knowledge of what needs to be done and the budget to execute the right plan. For example – a lot of utilities will spend money on building DMAs that will tell them they have a problem in a specific DMA. But it will not tell them the exact location. DMAs will show them the level of NRW but not more than that. Instead, utilities can benefit from applying sensors that can monitor the entire network and alert on the specific location of leaks.

WF&M: From your perspective, how is the U.S. market different from Europe and other parts of the world?

Fruchtman: The U.S. market is only now starting to realize that water loss is becoming a serious issue that needs to be dealt with rather than being ignored. Places like California that have faced a drought over the past 10 years are starting to understand that they need to take action if they want to have enough water for their citizens. The U.K. market, for example, has been using leak detection devices for more than 60 years while the U.S. is just starting to buy such equipment. Also, the regulator in the U.K. is giving fines of millions of GBP to utilities that didn’t reached their annual NRW rates while providing millions of GBP to utilities that did reach their targets. These methods have helped the U.K. market maintain lower NRW rates.

WF&M: The market seems to be saturated with a lot of network monitoring and leak detection technology. What can utilities do to make sure they are well-informed of leak detection options in the market?

Fruchtman: They should visit water conferences on regular basis, talk to utilities around the world that are already using leak detection equipment and learn from their experience. At the end of the day, they should choose one or two good technologies and trial them out for a few weeks before reaching a decision.

WF&M: Has the market for leak detection technology grown in recent years? Are more utilities looking to buy this technology?

Fruchtman: Yes. Due to the global warming, population growth and aging infrastructure there is much more demand for leak detection. From our perspective at Aquarius Spectrum, we see more utilities looking for solutions and our 2017 sales have doubled from 2016. We expect them to double again in 2018.

WF&M: What are the biggest barriers to technology adoption?

Fruchtman: In order to adopt the necessary technology for dealing with water loss, utilities need substantial budget and government support. Accurate GIS information is also required, decent water pressure and proper knowledge.

WF&M: How can leak detection and monitoring tools assist utilities with budget planning?

Fruchtman: Leak detection and monitoring tools can provide the water utility the right insights about its water network. Information technology (IT) can also provide the utility the number of existing leaks and their sizes so that it can plan ahead and prioritize the work based on the size of the leak. It can also provide pipe condition assessment which can help the utility plan the replacement of parts of its network instead of replacing the oldest pipes that sometimes work just fine. 

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