Article | January 6, 2022

It's Time To Do Something About Small-System Water Loss

Pete Antoniewicz

By Pete Antoniewicz


The topic of non-revenue water (NRW) loss often evokes comparisons to the familiar adage about the weather — “it is a matter about which a great deal is said, but very little done.” But such comparisons might soon become obsolete if a no-cost webinar series sponsored by the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) and targeted toward smaller water utilities (<10,000 customers) has anything to do with it.

To help those utilities deal with NRW challenges, the EFCN is hosting a series of six webinars on various aspects of water loss during the early months of 2022. The webinars will be presented by experts from the Southwest Environmental Finance Center (SW EFC) at the University of New Mexico, which serves five states (NM, TX, OK, AR, LA) and 66 tribal nations in U.S. EPA Region 6 as one of the 10 member organizations that constitute the EFCN.

Finally, Respite For The Weary (And Under-Resourced)

Because distribution-system water losses — both real and apparent NRW losses — typically take place underground and beyond the boundaries of water treatment plants (WTPs), they can be difficult to detect. Left undetected, they can grow over time until 20, 30, or even 40 percent of the water treated by a utility returns no revenue to the utility. But the problem is more than just a concern for distribution-system maintenance crews. It is as much a business issue as a physical issue — especially for understaffed or underfunded small water utilities. That is why the webinar series is targeted toward the needs of operators, key decision-makers, and other influencers involved with small water systems, including:

  • Small-water-system operators and managers.
  • Consultants providing technical assistance to small water systems.
  • Additional decision-makers and influences — such as finance officers, utility boards, municipal leadership, etc.

Six Opportunities To Do It Better

The overall webinar series breaks the problem of water loss down into six manageable sessions of an hour or less. Interested parties can attend one or more sessions that are relevant to them, but each session requires a separate registration. Complete details of the webinar series are available in this fact sheet that can be shared with work associates and municipal leaders. The six session topics include:

About The SW EFC and EFCN

The webinar presenters are experienced water-system advisors from the SW EFC, described on its website, as “a public service entity … dedicated to assisting state, local, and tribal governments as well as the private sector with the technical, managerial, and financial aspects of environmental service delivery and environmental compliance.”

That group is part of the larger EFCN program, which offers a variety of assistance for small water systems — ranging from technical assistance and training to financial guidance and funding resources. The EFCN website provides access to direct assistance for smaller water systems and links to multiple resources such as practical workshops, webinars, and thought-provoking blogs on both practical and theoretical topics.