“The AWWA now thinks all water should be accounted for,” says Jakubowski. “And we threw the percentage concept out because people were just jiggling numbers around to meet the required water loss percentages.”

A New Way Of Accounting

To help utilities gain control over their water losses, AWWA teamed with the International Water Association (IWA) to identify best management practices. In 2003, the associations began developing a water audit structure that renders obsolete ambiguous terms such as “unaccounted-for.” Now completed, the audit also allows utilities to assess water loss, benchmark themselves with other utilities, and set performance targets. It features:

  • Consistent definitions for the major forms of water consumption and water loss.
  • Performance indicators that evaluate utilities on system-specific features, such as the average pressure in the distribution system and miles of water main.
  • Jakubowski insists that the audit is user-friendly. “You can plug your numbers into the appropriate categories and start analyzing,” he says. The audit is available as a free, downloadable software program on the AWWA Web site www.awwa.org/waterwiser/waterloss. You can also see an example of the audit software the AWWA provides for free, here.

    Although the IWA/AWWA Water Audit Method has been available since last summer, there's still a disconnect when it comes to determining numbers. A big reason is the conflicting information floating around the industry.

    For instance, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water loss regulations still use percentages and “unaccounted-for” water losses. And although a few states have embraced the new AWWA guidelines, others are writing legislation based on AWWA committee reports from the 1990s, which endorse water loss rates instead of the updated method of determining water loss by volume and cost.

    Regardless, Jakubowski is happy that policymakers are at least trying to regulate water loss. As for the industry coming around to AWWA's new way of thinking, “it's going to be a tough issue to change in the minds of people,” he says.

    “The people who are jumping on board are doing so because it's money back in your pocket. You shouldn't be wasting it.”