News Feature | March 5, 2014

Australian Utility Loses 43 Billion Liters Of Water

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

Australia

Water Corporation, the principal water provider in Western Australia, has misplaced something pretty important: 43 billion liters of drinking water.

A government audit said that's how much water was unbilled to customers or lost through leaks during the last fiscal year. The amount "is high compared to similar sized water utilities in other states," the audit determined. The utility is owned by the government. 

The audit, released last week, said that "about 12 per cent of the 357 billion liters of water the utility supplied State-wide in the 2012-13 financial year was unaccounted for," according to the West Australian. Leaky pipes were the main problem, according to ABC. 

"They need to be doing more to pursue loss, they do have a leak detection program which is a good thing, that's actually found and saved us 3.4 billion liters over the past three years," Western Australia Auditor General Colin Murphy said in the news report. That's 10.5 billion liters more than its benchmark, according to Perth Now

"Thirteen billion liters was not physically lost, but was unbilled usage. That left a remaining 30 billion liters disappearing from the system, mainly from pipe leakages. About seven to eight billion liters of lost water was undetected leakage from pipes," the news report said. 

The report included various recommendations for the utility. By late 2014, Water Corporation should "include undetected leakage from pipes as a factor in its pipe replacement planning and investment decisions; ensure pipe references to original construction drawings and survey field books are contained in its spatial information system; and review how information on leaks and bursts and from its leak detection program could be better linked across its IT systems."

The utility should also "make gathering information about the location of leaks and bursts mandatory and regularly check to see that it is being gathered; and review how information and learning about larger incidents of leaks and bursts could be better captured and disseminated.”

The water authority denied that budget cuts were to blame for the losses, according to a separate report in the West Australian

Water Corporation issued a response to the report, saying it is working to solve the problem. 

"While unaccounted for water cannot be eliminated from any supply system, the Corporation takes this matter seriously and is working hard to reduce this amount. A targeted program to find and repair undetected leakage from pipes has been implemented, and has saved 3.4 billion liters of water in the last 3 years," the utility said. 

"The Corporation believes this, combined with other directly targeted programs, will reduce unaccounted for water more quickly than pipe replacement as it is implemented over a much greater area of the network, in a much shorter time frame."

Image credit: "Australia Day 2010," © 2010 Travis_Simon, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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