Research finds some California utilities fail to monitor leaks

July 27, 2015

LOS ANGELES — Smaller utilities often lacked knowledge of best practices.

LOS ANGELES — The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers encourage water utilities to track leaks and water loss after conducting a recent survey, according to a press release.

The state legislature is considering a bill that would require the agencies to conduct public, annual audits to better monitor and prevent waste, noted the release. Senate Bill 555 was opposed by the California Municipal Water Association.

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IES) researchers confidentially surveyed 10 water retailers in the region to reach their conclusions, stated the release.

"It appears that most retailers don’t think of minimizing leaks and breaks as a conservation responsibility, despite the cost and scarcity of water in California," said co-author Madelyn Glickfeld, director of the UCLA Water Resources Group, in the release. "States such as Georgia, Washington and Texas actively encourage and train water agencies in conducting water system audits, but not California."

According to the report, six of the 10 responding "agencies did not distinguish between water leaks and unbilled or unauthorized water uses, and many failed to follow best practices for leak detection." Retailers who report leaks do so well below the international rates of 10 percent, reported the release. Australian experts use a more sophisticated technology than California, and they also believe 10 percent is a likely minimum leakage rate.

"Los Angeles County seems to lack a proactive strategy," Kartiki Naik, a staff research associate at UCLA’s IES, said in the release. "Only three out of the 10 retailers that we surveyed used available leak-detection technology to prevent leaks. Only six had a program to replace a certain amount of old pipe each year and their maintenance schedules would take about 100-330 years to replace every pipe."

Researchers also discovered that large public and privately owned utilities were more capable in handling leaks and breaks, shared the release. Smaller organizations often lacked knowledge of best practices.

You can find the entire release here.