No one likes a leaky pipe.
At WaterNow Alliance we champion the untapped potential of innovative, often technological, solutions to help reduce water loss from leaks. And so does Santa Fe County, NM - Water loss due to leaks on the customer side of the meter represents a significant challenge for the County, its customers and many similarly situated communities.
Like many utilities, Santa Fe County is in the process of switching to an Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI), but due to the significant capital investment required, the transition will take several years to implement. When fully integrated in the County’s service area, the AMI technology will improve efficiency, allow the city to provide better customer service, and assist in identifying customer-side leaks.
Today water meters are read once a month. Most customers only find out that they may have a leak at the end of the billing cycle, when they see their water usage on an abnormally high water bill. Santa Fe is an arid region in the New Mexico desert, serving approximately 10,000 residents. Water lost due to leaks is about 1.5-million gallons annually – and those are only the leaks that the County is aware of. Many additional leaks are likely to have occurred that were never reported. The average volume of water lost per incident is 32,000-gallons, but can be as high as 200,000-gallons. The County has a bill adjustment policy that assists customers with the cost of paying for the water that was never used. But of course this results in lost revenue to the County and significant water waste.
When fully operational, the AMI software will alert County staff of potential leaks, and because water usage data are transmitted daily, or even hourly, the County can alert a customer almost immediately rather than at the end of the billing cycle.
So where does WaterNow Alliance fit in? We’re working with County staff to develop and implement a program that assists customers with identifying leaks faster. Together we put together a plan to: 1) identify available leak detection technologies; 2) develop a program and/or policy that incentivizes customers to adopt these technologies; and 3) examine potential funding opportunities to enhance program goals.
WaterNow is all about working with water utilities to implement solutions that result in real water savings, and we are excited to work with Santa Fe County on this critical project, which we think may become a model for other urban water utilities nationwide.
Danielle McPherson is the Water Resource Specialist and Project Manager at WaterNow Alliance.