I learned a new acronym today. NRW – Non-Revenue Water. What is Non-Revenue Water? It’s the difference between the amount of water supplied into a distribution system and the amount of water that is billed to the customers.
Why isn’t it billed for?
- Apparent Losses – inaccurate metering, data handling/billing errors, and theft
- Real (Physical) Losses – leakages and overflows
- Authorized Unbilled – system flushing, firefighting, special users
I learned about NRW in this white paper produced by the State of Green (more about the State of Green in a later post).
I was shocked to learn 25% – 50% of distributed water is not paid for. That’s like a company’s delivery truck going down the street with the rear door open and the products falling out the back. I don’t know how any business can be sustainable if 25% – 50% of their product is not paid for. Water is a scarce resource. The UN projects water consumption will increase 30% by 2050. This is why every water utility should be focusing on reducing their NRW.
There are several steps utilities should take now:
- Decide the reducing their NRW is necessary and make it a priority.
- Create a NRW reduction Master Plan starting with a Water Audit.
- Make sure the resulting NRW master plan is understood from the highest level of the utility to the lowest.
- Conduct the Water Audit annually and modify or correct the master plan as necessary.
The four levers a utility has to pull to reduce their NRW are:
- Active leakage control
- System pressure management
- Speed and quality of repairs
- Pipeline rehabilitation
The utility should pull these levers based on the highest return on investment. Basically starting where they will get the most “bang for the buck”.
When investing in equipment and materials the utility should consider only quality products with long warranties. Selecting them based on the principals of Total Cost of Ownership, not just the purchase price. For instance, the purchasing cost of a pump is only 5% of the pump’s total cost over its lifetime. Maintenance cost accounts for 10% and energy costs accounts for the remaining 85% of the Total Cost of Ownership. Total Cost of Ownership demands that engineers and owners approach equipment selection from a different perspective. This will be a topic I’d like to cover in a later post.
Training is also a critical component. Having a well trained staff across the organization will help make each “lever” more effective. Innovative on-line training is available to help in this regard. The on-line platforms provide consistent and accurate training information across an organization.
Utilities should also keep their eye trained on innovations within the industry such as on-line training. The continuous innovation in equipment and process development that is taking place within the industry should be evaluated and incorporated into the program as seen fit.
At the beginning I said I found this NRW Reduction white paper on the State of Green Website. Here’s a link to the webpage for the white paper so you can download it for yourself if you’re interested.