By Sara Jerome,
New Jersey is losing around 130 million gallons of treated drinking water per day, according to a new study that attempts to shed light on the “largely hidden” problem of water loss in the Garden State.
The report from the environmental advocacy and research group NRDC noted the following striking figures:
- Over 50 million gallons per day of water losses, conservatively valued at over $10 million per year, are likely to be cost-effective for utilities to save. (This amount of water is equal to the water use of about 700,000 New Jersey residents, or a population 2½ times the size of Newark, the state’s largest city);
- An additional $12 million per year in lost revenue is likely to be cost-effective for utilities to recover through improved water measurement and billing practices.
The report also had some hopeful news for New Jersey if positive changes are made. “The findings show a good potential for water and energy to be saved, infrastructure to be better maintained, cost savings to be garnered by water utilities, and improved equity of payments for water customers to be achieved. It is time for all New Jersey water utilities to lay the foundation for cost-effective water loss reduction programs by completing standardized water audits on an annual basis and reporting validated results to their customers and state agencies,” the report said.
NRDC recommended four steps New Jersey can take to improve its situation, per a statement from the group:
1. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) should improve its management of water audit data currently collected by removing vague and obsolete terminology from water system reports, to be replaced by American Water Works Association terms and reporting format.
2. Similarly, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities should standardize the reporting on water losses it requires from state-regulated investor-owned water companies using American Water Works Association terms and methods.
3. The New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, which administers low-interest rate loans to municipalities and water suppliers for water infrastructure projects, should consider allocating funds designated for state programs to support water audit training and validation, as other states have done.
4. New Jersey should consider establishing an annual water loss reporting and disclosure requirement for all water suppliers, as outlined in NRDC’s Model State Water Loss Audit legislation.
A legislative task force in New Jersey is examining ways to address the water loss issue, according to NJ Spotlight.
“One hurdle that emerged is that many systems do not have a handle on just how much water is being lost,” the report said.
Dan Kennedy, the assistant commissioner in charge of the DEP’s water programs, noted the diversity of water systems in service in New Jersey.
“Designing a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems they face does not work, Kennedy said. For most issues, it is the smallest systems that face the biggest challenges, he said. Given the billions of dollars needed to address the problems, they will not be solved quickly,” the report said, citing Kennedy.
“It is going to have to move incrementally and spread over generations,’’ Kennedy said.
To read more about non-revenue water visit Water Online’s Water Loss Prevention Solutions Center.