Public water systems face a number of significant challenges including water quantity and quality concerns, aging infrastructure, more stringent regulatory requirements, and depleted resources. These challenges are often magnified by local climate and population changes. According to the EPA, it has been estimated that the average water loss (or non-revenue water) in systems is 16%, with 75% of that loss being recoverable. And, of the estimated $200 billion that the United States will need to spend over the next 20 years to upgrade water distribution systems, about $97 billion of that is needed for water loss control.
A water audit can help water systems meet these challenges head-on by identifying the causes and true costs of water loss, and developing strategies to reduce water loss and recapture lost revenue. Drinking water infrastructure in the United States, particularly in the northeast, is typically many decades-old, and deteriorating distribution systems can be a significant source of water loss through leakage, or “real losses.” Besides real losses, water that is not measured accurately may “appear” to be lost. These “apparent losses” may be the result of theft; policies and procedures that lead to inaccurate accounting of water use; and customer metering inaccuracies.
Water audits are often the most cost-effective and efficient solution to increasing demand. The time to recover the costs of a water audit is typically measured in days, weeks, or months, rather than years. Effective water loss control programs reduce the need for facility upgrades and expansions. The recovered water can be sold to consumers, generating revenue and meeting water demands. In many instances, the results of a water audit can reduce the need to find additional sources. In addition, a water loss control program can help protect public health by reducing the number of entry points for disease‐causing pathogens.