The case for fixing the leaks in the U.S. – starting in the Great Lakes region


Almost six billion gallons of treated water – amounting to an estimated 14 to 18% of daily water use – is believed to be lost daily in the United States due to crumbling infrastructure, including leaky, aging pipes, faulty metering and other outdated systems, according to a new report from the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).

At the same time increasing demand, maintenance and energy costs within the water industry are leading to rising rates, with the cost of water services in the U.S. rising by nearly 90% between 1996 and 2010.

“Given this increase it is essential that we quickly adopt effective water loss control practices,” the report states, making the case to start in the Great Lakes region (in which Chicago is situated) – which contains the world’s largest available source of fresh water, and represent nearly 30% of the nation’s gross domestic product and 60% of its manufacturing.

The report notes that best practices to reducing water losses include leak detection monitoring, targeted repairs or upgrades, pressure management, and better metering technologies.

A critical first step is to establish universal auditing and standards across water utilities, and build public understanding and support for improved water resource management and investment. But currently there is a lack of consistent standards among Great Lakes utilities, and almost three-quarters of the utilities surveyed have no policy in place to control water loss, while less than half use best practice industry auditing standards. Further, less than 4% said they received assistance from state or regulatory agencies in managing water loss.

The International Water Association (IWA) and American Water Works Association (AWWA) have developed a best management practice tool to help water utilities better manage assets through improved water loss auditing and control, the report notes. The AWWA Free Water Audit Software, together with the Water Audits and Loss Control Programs: Manual of Water Supply Practices M36, provide water utilities with guidance and tools to improve their accountability, efficiency, and decision-making process regarding water loss control issues.

View the report HERE.