News Feature | March 31, 2014

France Losing 20 Percent Of Drinking Water To Leaky Pipes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Over 20 percent of France's drinking water is lost to leaky pipes and other problems, according to a study published in the magazine 60 millions de consommateurs.

"Each year, 1.3bn litres of water that has been treated for drinking never reach the tap. That’s enough water to fill 430,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools every year," the Connexion recently reported

Officials hope to lower that number in the coming years. "National targets set in 2010 charged prefectures across France to cut the rate of water leakage in pipes to 15 percent," the report said.

But that could be an expensive task. "The magazine estimates the bill to complete necessary work on France’s water pipes at between €1.5bn and €2bn per year," the report said. 

Some areas are worse than others. "Using data from the National Office for Water and Aquatic Environments (ONEMA), the consumer watchdog has compiled a list of the prefectures it says are failing to hit the target. A quarter of prefectures, it said, had leak rates of more than 25 percent of all water produced," the report said. 

The worst area was Digne-les-Baines, in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, reporting a 54 percent leak rate. Le Mans performed the best, with a 4 percent leak rate. 

Leaky pipes are a major problem in the U.S., as well. They contribute to non-revenue water totals along with the failure by water providers to accurately bill customers.

Domestic utilities lose up to 20 percent of their water per year, according to a 2013 report from the consulting and engineering company Black & Veatch. 

What are U.S. cities doing to tackle the issue? A separate Black & Veatch report homed in on Cleveland's approach.

"The Cleveland, Ohio, Water Division is concentrating on its meters, billing system and customer service operation. The focus is to make sure that when water is delivered to the customer, the utility knows it and bills accordingly. Two years ago, about 17 percent of customers in any given billing cycle received estimated bills. The industry average for estimated bills is 2 to 3 percent," the report said. 

There are three key aspects to any effective water loss control effort, according to the EPA: 1) Water Audit, 2) Intervention, and 3) Evaluation. These step s"must be repeated on a periodic basis to continually evaluate and improve the performance of a [water system]," the agency said. 

For insights and case studies, check out Water Online's Utility Management Solution Center

Image credit: "from paris with love," © 2002 agaw.dilim, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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