9 Steps to Curb NRW and Maintain Water & Sewer Systems

9 Steps to Curb NRW and Maintain Water & Sewer Systems

Water and wastewater systems are critical to the well-being of communities, yet they face challenges that consumers don’t consider when they turn on the tap or flush. But boy, they sure do notice when nothing comes out of the tap, don’t they?

Icons and statistics about the state of the U.S. water and sewer infrastructure.

Leakage, contamination, and service interruptions all put systems, vital services, and people at risk. A water manager’s worst nightmare is loss of service and/or boil advisories caused by inflow/infiltration from contaminants or broken water mains.

For facility, water, wastewater, and municipal managers, addressing non-revenue water (NRW) and the integrity of your utility infrastructure are paramount to ensure safety, efficiency, and sustainability. There are a few simple steps you can take to improve the performance of water and sewer systems, to mitigate risk, create awareness among stakeholders, and keep the water flowing safely.

1. Embrace Advanced Leak Detection Techniques

Leaks in pressurized water pipelines can lead to significant water loss and increased non-revenue water (NRW). Proactively utilizing industry-leading smart water and sewer sensors can capture flow and contaminant data. However, those sensors cannot pinpoint a single leak to its source. Periodically surveying your water system with an annual water loss survey can help identify and address leaks before they become expensive emergencies.

Sometimes, like in a recent situation in a manufacturing plant where the fire suppression system sprung a three-million-gallon-per-day circular leak, the emergency occurs before mitigation can happen. In the case of an emergency, GPRS offers pinpoint accurate, rapid response leak detection services that employ multiple locating and assessment techniques to detect any and all pressurized water line leaks.

2. Implement Segmental Monitoring

Dividing your water infrastructure into manageable sections allows for more targeted monitoring and maintenance. This approach facilitates the identification of problem areas and the prioritization of repairs, thereby reducing the overall impact of leaks and inefficiencies.

However, to be able to segment and monitor your systems, you have to first know where they are and what they’re made of. So, the first step is to create an accurate utility map of your entire infrastructure: water lines, sanitary and storm sewer pipes, electrical conduit, gas lines, telecommunications fiber lines, and more. That way, you’re not left guessing what’s happening in buried lines – you know where to find them and assess performance.

Plus, in keeping with the new “Get The Lead Out” national initiative for lead pipe removal, every municipality in the U.S. will likely be required to provide the Environmental Protection Agency with a service line inventory, including material and location, within the next few years.

GPRS offers full site scan utility mapping for all above and below-ground features and infrastructure, which is delivered in a comprehensive, layered utility map via SiteMap® for your 24/7 access and use.

3. Prioritize Rapid Response and Repair

Quickly identifying and repairing leaks and any structural damages they have caused can minimize water loss and prevent further deterioration of systems. By the time you notice a significant change in consumption, or there is standing water on surfaces, a pressurized line leak has already lost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of gallons of water, which erodes soil, invades concrete and deteriorates asphalt, often before you see the signs. So, it’s important to have an ongoing relationship with a leak detection specialist near you who can provide rapid response service. GPRS can generally

In the case of sewer systems, employing professional CCTV pipe inspection services can expedite the assessment process by providing a comprehensive NASSCO-certified video pipe inspection report that details each pipe defect, their severity, allows you to plan pinpoint repairs and to reduce the risk of contamination and service interruptions.

4. Enhance Network Surveillance

You probably already utilize continuous monitoring of your pressurized water and fire suppressions systems through the use of smart sensors and smart meters, which are proven protocols to curb water loss. When those monitors are supplemented with annual water loss surveys and reports, your enhanced process can go a long way to helping you curb NRW and save money.

Sewer lines can be similarly monitored with smart sensor technology in water treatment plants by monitoring “vital metrics like dissolved oxygen to total suspended solids” and can scale their monitoring to include every reservoir, tank, and throughway. You can also calibrate smart sensors to monitor flow rates, contaminant levels, and can alert water and sewer managers of a potential I/I (inflow/infiltration) situation before it spreads. Further, CCTV video pipe inspection providers can offer real-time insights into water and sewer system performance, and can map your entire water and sewer infrastructure.

5. Leverage Data Analytics

Utilizing data from various sources, including NASSCO-certified reporting and smart meters, can provide valuable insights into water and sewer systems’ performance. The trick, of course, is how to manage and utilize the data in a way that makes it easy to understand, easy to convey, and leads your team to faster response times and a more efficient system.

However, the data by itself means nothing until you can use it to spot trends, verify performance, and alert you to previously unknown issues. To do that, you need a single source of truth – a dashboard of sorts – where you can intelligently visualize your entire system in a secure, accessible environment, and share that information with those who need it.

That’s why GPRS provides every customer with a complimentary SiteMap® Personal subscription, to give you control of your data, in a unique easy to use interface and mobile application that acts as a single source of truth for your utility infrastructure needs.

Analyzing & visualizing your data allows you to identify trends, predict potential issues, and make more informed decisions for improvements.

6.Establish Clear Objectives and Monitoring Protocols

Once you have taken control of your data, you can begin setting specific goals for NRW reduction, for I/I and establish monitoring protocols for different segments of your water and sewer infrastructure that ensure safety and accountability. Regularly reviewing system performance against these objectives allows for timely adjustments and continuous improvement. If your management platform allows for aggregated data, even better, because historical metrics – like the ability to review each year’s water loss survey in one place – to compare and contrast – makes system management even easier.

7. Address Unauthorized Usage

Combating illegal connections and unauthorized water usage is crucial for maintaining system integrity and financial stability. Every state and many municipalities have laws on the books to deter water theft that can include criminal sanctions, termination of services, and back-billing, among other penalties. The goal, however, is to stop utility theft before it happens. Implementing measures such as tamper-proof devices, segmented monitoring, smart meters,  and regular inspections can help deter illicit activities and ensure equitable resource distribution.

8. Invest in Quality Infrastructure

Choosing high-quality components and solutions for municipal water and wastewater systems is vital for long-term reliability and performance. As the new safe drinking and wastewater guidelines are implemented by the EPA, many municipal and state utility managers are scrambling to receive a portion of the funds apportioned by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to offset removing and replacing lead pipes and couplings throughout their antiquated systems.

Investing in durable materials and reputable suppliers can prevent frequent breakdowns and reduce maintenance costs.

9. Foster Knowledge Sharing and Training

Educating municipal staff, contractors, stakeholders, and public utility customers about best practices in water management, including the use of video pipe inspection and leak detection technologies, is key to building a skilled and informed workforce and community. Collaborating with industry experts and participating in training programs can enhance the overall effectiveness of the system.

GPRS sponsors Water & Sewer Damage Awareness Week each year to help educate facility and municipal water managers on ways to keep their drinking water safer, prevent non-revenue water loss, and better manage inflow/infiltration and contamination issues in sanitary and storm sewer systems.

Managing water infrastructure with a data-driven approach puts you in a proactive stance that allows you to ward off potential issues, more easily maintain your systems, and reduce the likelihood of major failures. By implementing these strategies, water and wastewater facility and municipal managers can significantly improve the efficiency and reliability of their systems, ensuring safe and uninterrupted service to their communities.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does a Video Pipe Inspection (CCTV Sewer Inspection) work?

Video pipe inspection is a safe and non-destructive method to locate utilities and detect leaks, cracks, and blocks in your pipes. VPI is effective because it allows for a pipe to be inspected remotely.

Video pipe inspection services can be used for the following purposes:

  • Lateral inspection and mapping
  • Cross bore prevention and mitigation
  • Sewer and water inspections
  • Water and sewer mapping
  • Manhole inspections

Is acoustic leak detection accurate?

Yes, it can be, especially when employed alongside leak correlation technologies and utility locating equipment. You can learn more about leak detection, here.

How can I bring GPRS Water & Sewer Damage Awareness Week to my team?

We bring water and sewer experts to you to provide information and best practices for water and wastewater management. Click here to register for one of our 2024 WSDAW talks.