Posts filed under ‘Water Cost’
This is the first post in a new series we’ll call “CTO Insights” by Haggai Scolnicov, TaKaDu’s CTO.
At the recent Water Loss UK workshop and seminar – an interesting, edifying event, as always – I told some of the world’s leading water loss experts what I know about leaks. My talk was clearly “selling ice to Eskimos”, or (closer to the very pleasant Birmingham venue) “bringing coals to Newcastle”.
Really, I just wanted to tell everyone 6 facts about leakage which are not widely known, or just don’t get mentioned enough. At TaKaDu, we’ve been finding leaks and other network faults in customers’ data for several years now, so we have thousands and thousands of individual events to study, each conveniently recorded with the relevant sensor and operations data. This “gallery of leaks” is probably unique. Equally unique, is TaKaDu’s fully-automated statistical analysis of flow and pressure data. To develop and constantly refine this, we have had to study the finest details of a leak’s lifecycle and of the networks we monitor. Only through such study can we help analysts find leaks early, accurately, and reliably, despite the many factors which make this many times harder than theoretical or classroom examples. Look for my list of “How leaks hide in data”, as well as a cheap shot at typical water loss conference slides.
The upshot of all this is that we’ve been able to look at how leaks start, develop, and get repaired, and we noticed (amongst other observations) these 6 interesting and useful facts about “typical leaks”, all detailed and demonstrated in the slides.
- Many leaks start abruptly at 0.5-5 l/s – so individual leaks can have significant impact on water loss, they do not “start at 0”, and there is an abrupt start visible in flow data.
- Leaks start small and grow – at least in many of the leaks we observed, so a 0.5 l/s leak is not “too small to bother”, it is just a 5 l/s leak waiting to happen; repairing a reasonably small leak shows (statistically) better active leakage control than repairing a large one!
- … Or they cause major visible bursts – Many visible bursts develop from a slow leak lasting weeks or months, so with good detection there is time to intervene and prevent the more expensive damage and repairs.
- Leaks rarely last for years – at least the noticeable ones from around 1 l/s and up, so perhaps “background leakage” is just a convenient myth? I asked my audience whether anyone had seen solid evidence for DMAs where “tiny leaks” accounted for any sizeable fraction of the estimated Non-Revenue Water figures, but it seems that background leakage is always assumed, never detected…
- Many leaks last weeks to months – after which they are repaired following a visible burst or through active leakage detection. This accounts for a huge part of the total water loss, and is almost always severely underestimated by water utilities, because of not realising how long the leaks run before an analyst or engineer becomes aware of them. Although a good leakage control program may keep the average flows supplied from increasing over the year, these long “bumps” in the graph can account for most of the utility’s water loss!
- Some (less common) leaks grow very slowly – increasing gradually over many months. Our customers have indicated that this may be a particularly hard to notice and hard to locate type of leak, perhaps physically different to others, and especially valuable when detected by TaKaDu.
I was half-expecting to be told off during the tea break for trying to teach the leakage experts about leaks rather than talking about software, which is what I am supposed to know about, not to mention contradicting or questioning some of the industry’s most cherished assumptions. Instead, I found a line of thoroughly intrigued practitioners and experts, excited by the potential of learning from a “gallery” of real leaks’ hard data. Some of them went so far as to say they had always doubted this or that “standard assumption” about leaks, but never found any decisive evidence until now. A few have since asked for some of this material, to help spread the word.
Here is what I had to say at the workshop, but I heartily recommend browsing the other presentations, available on the event website.
Northern Chile, one of the driest regions in the world, suffers fresh water availability limitations and faces a real challenge sustaining water resources in the face of growing demand. While water is a scarce resource in Northern Chile, it is rich with copper and minerals, making it a hub for mining facilities. Unfortunately, the mining industry is highly dependent on water as the mining process requires huge amounts of water – the same water that is scarce in this dry region…
The city of Antofagasta is a striking example. A city with a developed mining industry located in the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. Antofagasta addresses this challenge by desalinating water. 60% of the city’s water is currently desalinated, and by 2015 it is forecast to use 100% desalinated water. But desalinated water has its costs. In addition to the high investment required for planning and building the plant, operational costs are very high due to high energy consumption. This makes desalinated water much more expensive than fresh water. According to the American Chemical Society, the average cost to produce one acre-foot of desalinated water from seawater ranged from $800 to $1,400 (compared with $200 per acre-foot for water from other supply sources).
Recently, Eddy Segal of TaKaDu was the guest of the Aguas de Antofagasta water utility in a visit to the city’s impressive desalination plant. As you can learn from the photos, Aguas de Antofagasta’s desalination plant is one of the biggest and most impressive in the region.
The Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2011 (“Summer Davos”) is taking place this week, and we thought it’s a great venue to announce our first research report. This report, planned to be the first of many, shows the connection between water prices and water loss rates. Water loss is a key metric that impacts the sustainability, conservation and efficiency of water networks.
In some of the world’s cities, water is priced lower than the costs to pump and transport it, let alone sustain its delivery infrastructure: the network of pipes, pumps, reservoirs and valves that brings water to our homes. In some places water is free.
The question raised by TaKaDu’s research was whether the price of water also affects water loss rates. Theoretically, water underpricing can lead to undervaluing of water and underinvesting in the water distribution network.
Water pricing doesn’t impact residential consumption alone. Globally, only about 10% of water is used residentially, while the remaining 90% is used for agriculture and industry, so water mispricing obviously affects the way all sectors use water.
You can read more by clicking on the ‘Continue reading’ link below.
We just happened across a great blog post by Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold and Green Recovery.
Here, at TaKaDu, we’ve argued in the past that water is NOT the new oil. But recently, various measures of virtual water (the amount of water that goes into beef, an apple or a pair of jeans) have gone mainstream, along with attempts to measure freshwater withdrawals for production as a measure of water conservation, with Nestle as a prime example.
Winston argues against this very logic, by indicating the fallacy of comparing carbon footprints with water withdrawals or virtual water.
As a Technology Pioneer 2011 and a water technologies leader, focusing on the creation of new water sources by preventing water loss, TaKaDu’s CEO was invited to the “Rethinking Natural Resources” session.
The session, part of the World Economic Forum’s newly launched Risk Response Network, focused on the risk of natural resource scarcity, addressing how the private sector, governments and other stakeholders should view natural resources, especially with regards to production and consumption over the next 30-40 years. Where will the pressures be on natural resources? How are the risks managed?
The session’s focus was finding out which natural resources are of local and international concern. One of the key resources is water.
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the growing infrastructure deficit. Across the US, Canada and Europe, experts and policy makers share a growing concern around the many billions required to catch up with this deficit, or in layman’s words: Public infrastructure is aging and decaying. While there may be disagreement about the actual extent of the deficit, there is no arguing that it is there to stay – and that some types of infrastructure age with less grace than others.
An emerging category named ‘Water Infrastructure Monitoring’ carries the promise of optimizing – through the use of advanced software and data collection – the process of pinpointing the assets that need to be serviced, and taking corrective action, thereby prolonging asset life and diverting scarce budgets to the right places
We’ve all heard or read that “water is the new oil”, often as a pundit’s shorthand for some market prediction. Drinking water, we are told by analysts and environmentalists, is a rare, limited resource which the world is rapidly running out of. It’s just like oil.
Well, it’s not.
Going through “Charting Our Water Future”, a report by the 2030 water resources group, which, as its name implies, is looking at the future of water supplies in 2030.
One of the views that caught my eye in the report was the gap between how policy makers see the priority of making water investments and evaluating these water investments from an economic viewpoint.
Let’s say a country is facing water shortages. Should it invest in creating more water (desalination, for instance), improving its water infrastructure (investing in groundwater production and pipe networks) or try to get more efficiency gains (e.g. scheduling agricultural irrigation)?
A 90-year old water main in Dallas burst and flooded a basement, forcing the shutdown of data center with no backup. Since the datacenter housed all county data processing, including criminal justice records, the system almost ground to a halt.
Blogging from the Water Efficiency Conference in Ferrara, Italy. The Water Efficiency Conference is proving so far to provide a deep look into the core issues surrounding water efficiency initiatives: Looking at the real cost of water to measure what the economically efficient investment in leakage reduction should be; and Emphasizing both leak control and the reduction of consumption.