California water agencies don’t know how much their pipes leak

With California homeowners taking steps to save waterClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ... during the droughtA period of abnormally dry weather long enough to cause a serious hydrological imbalance. Drought is a relative term, therefore any discussion in terms of precipitation deficit must refer to the particular precipitation-related activity that is under discussion. For example, shortage of ..., they may be dismayed to hear that a new UCLA report found that water agencies are unable to keep close track of how much their own pipes are leaking.

The report is particularly timely due to a new bill winding its way through the California State Legislature that would develop stricter rules for monitoring and preventing water loss, require water agencies to track leaks, breaks and water loss more closely by conducting annual auditsAn audit is an independent, objective quality assurance activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to assess and improve the effectiveness of risk management, ..., and make the audits public. Senate Bill 555 by state Sen. Lois Wolk recently passed one Assembly committee, despite resistance from the California Municipal Water Association, which lobbies on behalf of large public water utilities.

Researchers with the UCLA Institute of the Environment and SustainabilityIn order to survive, all life, including human life, depends either directly or indirectly on the natural environment. Sustainability is a principle where current requirements are met while the livelihoods of future generations are not threatened. surveyed 10 water retailers in the Los Angeles region, and concluded that there’s no way to know how much water is lost to leakageLeakage refers to the fact that while deforestation might be avoided in one place, the forest destroyers might move to another area of forest or to a different country. ( and breaks. This is largely because California doesn’t require careful monitoring and water retailers do not invest enough to track water lost to leaks and breaks. The survey respondents were guaranteed confidentiality.

“It appears that most retailers don’t think of minimizing leaks and breaks as a conservation responsibility, despite the costCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... and scarcity of water in California,” said co-author Madelyn Glickfeld, director of the UCLA Water ResourcesClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ... Group. “States such as Georgia, Washington and Texas actively encourage and trainRail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods, by way of wheeled vehicles running on rails. It is also commonly referred to as train transport. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the ... water agencies in conducting water system audits, but not California.”

The report found that 6 of the 10 surveyed agencies did not distinguish between water leaks and unbilled or unauthorized water uses, and many failed to follow best practices for leak detection.

The four retailers that do measure leaks reported the amount of water lost at 3 percent to 4 percent, which the researchers described as “an improbably low percentage” compared to the best international rates of 10 percent. Israel, renowned for water conservation, reports a 10 percent water-loss rate, and experts in Australia, using more sophisticated technology than that used in California, also see 10 percent as a likely minimum leakage rate, Glickfeld said.

The technology to monitor pipes for stress points and leaks is available, said the study’s lead author Kartiki Naik, a staff research associate at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

“Los Angeles County seems to lack a proactive strategy,” Naik said. “Only three out of the 10 retailers that we surveyed used available leak-detection technology to prevent leaks. Only six had a program to replace a certain amount of old pipe each year and their maintenance schedules would take about 100-330 years to replace every pipe.”

The research shows the need for greater regulations, said Wolk, the author of the state legislation.

“The UCLA study shows that there are many more things that California water agencies, not just in Los Angeles but statewide, should be doing now to reduce water losses from leaks,” Wolk said. “That is why I have authored SB 555. As the research shows, reducing water lost from leaks and breaks in water systems provides many cost-effective benefits such as increased water supplyWater supply is the provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations, community endeavors or by individuals, usually via a system of pumps and pipes. reliability, reduced energy usage and improved infrastructure longevity.”

Because the state does not require reportingCorporate inventory program. A program to produce annual corporate inventories that are keeping with the principles, standards, and guidance of the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard. This includes all institutional, managerial, and technical arrangements made for the collection of data, ... on water loss from leaks and breaks, the study authors found no reliable way to get data other than contacting water agencies individually. The study team contacted 20 of the 100 water retailers in the Los Angeles region, and received responses from half.

In general, the researchers found that large public water agencies and privately owned utilities did best at handling leaks and breaks, and were more likely to use more of the best practices to maintain pipes and water-storage systems. Small public and private water retailers largely failed to know or use best practices, or to post public information about water losses they did know about. In many cases, they appeared to lack the resources to tackle the problem, and might benefit from pooling resources, the researchers said.

“California should catch up with other states and ask water retailers to use crucial best management practices, ensuring accurate and verifiable water loss monitoring, and prescribing an effective water loss metric and maximum acceptable standard as a roadmapA roadmap is a plan that matches short-term and long-term goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals. It is a plan that applies to a new product or process, or to an emerging technology Developing a roadmap has three major uses. It helps reach a consensus about a set of ... for water retailers,” Naik said. “In this way, customers can be assured that their water supplier is doing what they can to conserve water.”

Source: UCLA

Featured image: Jens Lambert Photography / iStock.

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