Taking Control of Water Loss April 2018

With Texas' population increasing and water supplies decreasing over the next 50 years, controlling water loss is a key strategy that utilities (and homeowners) can implement to help ensure water supplies are being managed as efficiently as possible. Identifying water loss in a system is one of a utility's first lines of defense, and the Texas Water Development Board's (TWDB) Water Loss Audit is an important tool to help utilities do just that.

The Texas Legislature requires all retail public water suppliers to submit a water loss audit once every five years. The next five-year survey is due to the TWDB on May 1, 2021, for the year 2020. However, any retail water supplier that has an active financial obligation with the TWDB or has more than 3,300 connections is required to submit a water loss audit annually. That said, although it is a requirement for utilities to complete, it's also an opportunity for them to better know and understand their systems. The audit will help a utility understand where and how much water is being lost from the distribution system and provide a baseline to track and improve water loss control.

Reducing water loss offers utilities the ability to increase their water use efficiency, improve their financial status (losing water translates to losing money, which ultimately impacts customers), minimize their need for additional water resources, and assist with long-term water sustainability. It's also useful for utilities that have a water conservation plan in place, because knowing the current water loss situation can help determine water loss goals.

Conducting a water loss audit may seem daunting, but the TWDB is here to help. We offer scheduled Water Loss Audit and Leak Detection Workshops that provide water suppliers the opportunity to learn about the benefits of water loss audits and how to use the TWDB's online data collection system to successfully submit audits and account for water use and loss. Also included in the workshop is a hands-on session working on a water loss audit and an introduction to the TWDB's leak detection equipment loan program.

The workshops satisfy the legislative requirement under House Bill 1573 (85th Legislature, 2017) that all utilities submitting a water loss audit to the TWDB must complete a water loss auditor training prior to submittal, starting January 1, 2019. The trainings are also approved for four hours of continuing education credits for licensed water operators through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. To make it even easier to satisfy the training requirement, the TWDB will soon offer online training that water loss auditors may complete at their convenience.

Additionally, the TWDB is available to provide on-site, consultant-type assistance to utilities. We would be happy to review the water loss audit worksheet with the utility manager to discuss opportunities to reduce water loss. Our Regional Water Project Development teams also review an entity's audit when working with them for water project funding and may determine that they need to add or allocate funding to address water loss.

We have helped fund all sizes of projects for all sizes of communities to address water loss. For example, the City of Keller identified water loss in its system and included a project to mitigate the loss in its Enhanced Water Loss Control and Conservation Program outlined in the Region C water plan of the 2017 State Water Plan. The City was approved for $12,180,000 in project funding assistance through the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program in 2016 to replace approximately 62,000 linear feet of water mains and 1,600 water service connections. It is currently in the design phase of the project.

Water meter replacement, both traditional meters and automated meter reader upgrades, is another solution to water loss for which we frequently provide financial assistance. Malone is a very small community in Hill County with approximately 175 water connections. The City was experiencing a high volume of water loss due to aging water meters and approached the TWDB for financial assistance. In 2015, we approved $179,000 in loan forgiveness from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to finance planning, design, and construction costs associated with replacing all of the City's water meters. The project is now complete.

The benefits of completing the TWDB's Water Loss Audit are numerous, and we hope all utilities will use the audit as an opportunity to further understand their systems and maximize efficiency. The annual May 1 deadline is quickly approaching!