News Feature | February 27, 2017

'Ghost Water' Haunts Kansas City

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Kansas City, MO, is haunted by a big non-revenue water problem and local media has a name for this issue: ghost water.

An audit found that over 40 percent of the water pumped in 2015 failed to create revenue, according to a report from The Kansas City Star.

“Pervasive leaks and long delays in repairing them are nothing new in Kansas City. They have driven motorists and homeowners to distraction for years and left the city’s Water Services department with a hard-to-shake reputation as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. What is new is that the department appears to be trying to get a handle on all this ghost water and figure out where it’s going,” the report said.

The audit covering 2015 showed how much water the city is losing, according to The Kansas City Star:

▪ Of the 28 billion gallons of treated water Kansas City pumped into its distribution system in 2015, a third — 9.15 billion gallons — went missing.

▪ That’s enough ghost water to fill nearly 14,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Non-revenue water is a costly problem for the city.

“Depending on how you parse the numbers, it could be as much as $24 million a year, or $133 per customer each year, according to experts who viewed the audit at Flatland’s request,” the report said.

A water department spokesperson weighed in: “While we disagree with the $24 million dollar loss revenue number, we acknowledge that our water loss is higher than it should be. We estimate our cost of this lost water could be as high as half that amount.”

Water officials in Kansas City say theft is one part of the problem.

“Department officials believe they are losing significant water in abandoned houses and at rental properties where landlords or tenants have simply removed water meters. City officials have yet to collect and analyze all the data they will need to put a finer point on the problem,” the report said.

Non-revenue water plagues every water system. According to a report by the World Bank, "The total cost to water utilities caused by non-revenue water worldwide can be conservatively estimated at $141 billion per year, with a third of it occurring in the developing world. In developing countries, about 45 million cubic meters are lost daily through water leakage in the distribution networks — enough to serve nearly 200 million people."

On its blog, Master Meter published a state-by-state comparison of non-revenue water policies in different locations. It reported that Missouri has no water loss reporting requirement.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Solutions And Insight For Water Loss Prevention.