Where did all our water go? Minimize lost water

Posted in: Infrastructure, Water


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Why don’t all of our individual water service meters add up to the master meter? Municipalities ask this question all the time. The goal is to account for all the water. Our clients want to know if water is being lost through a distribution system leak or if there is an error in how water use is measured. Even more importantly, they want to know how to better tally water use going forward and develop systems to minimize water loss.

Here’s our approach to get to the bottom of unaccounted-for-water…

Determine amount of water loss

Perform an audit of the last five years of water production versus consumption. The study investigates losses through normal water system maintenance, fire department use, construction usage and the identification of non-metered users.

Review of the water meter program

Investigate the following parts of you water program for issues:

  • Age of water meters
  • Volume of measurements during the meter life as accuracy drops over the registration of large volumes of water
  • Frequency of large meter testing
  • Application and change-out schedules for water meters
  • Water meter reading system

Make sure the rate multipliers match the meters. For example, a 5/8-inch water meter may have one fixed zero, while a one-inch meter may have two or three fixed zeros. It’s important the billing office takes this into account, especially when a community has compound water meters that have both a high and low register.

Detect water distribution system leaks

Use leak detection equipment to survey the entire water distribution system; sounding for leaks in fire hydrants, curb stops, corporation stops and watermain valves. This identifies leaks in the watermains and/or water service connections. Each location with a leak is identified on a water distribution system map and onsite with marking paint. Paint colors – coded by the local utility – mark the leaks on graded system as urgent, moderate or minor. This helps the community plan future capital improvements.


Shannon Saramaa

About the Author

Shannon Saramaa, P.E., is a member of Mead & Hunt’s water and wastewater team. A true entrepreneur with innovation in her heart, Shannon founded a municipal water and wastewater consulting firm that continues to serve numerous Colorado utility districts, cities, institutions and other water and wastewater providers. Shannon now goes forward in the same spirit as a member of Mead & Hunt.

Read more posts by Shannon Saramaa

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