Reducing Non-Revenue Water: Experiences of the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources

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Shelton, Rebecca M.
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This paper will chronicle the efforts of the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources (DWR) to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) and increase our understanding of our system. In 2011 the Georgia Environmental Protection Division began requiring submittal of water audits by all municipalities serving a population over 3,300. The audits are required to be performed using the AWWA Free Water Audit Software. As DWR began filling out the audit and formally tracking NRW, a team was formed to address non-revenue water across every aspect of the audit. The team included members from finance, customer service, field operations, water production, asset management and operations technical services. The team was action-oriented and included the staff that would actually be implementing the work. The team started by brainstorming possible ways to reduce NRW. This included looking for cross-connections to other municipalities, researching parcels in GIS with structures but without a meter, re-establishing breached pressure zones, lowering pressures, replacing inaccurate large meters, performing leak detection and many other initiatives. Over time, action items were aligned with the water audit categories and a formal action plan developed. Like all journeys, some surprising discoveries were made along the way. We had to go through the process of ruling out possibilities before we could see that, even though our system is relatively young, a significant portion of our NRW is real losses. And it’s no wonder. We have over 3,600 miles of water mains and nearly 239,000 connections. We also found that our production meters that we thought were over 98% accurate, were not. This was significantly affecting our NRW calculation. Perhaps the most meaningful result is the number of programs we initiated or improved to ensure we are properly maintaining our system, which in turn will reduce NRW along the way. Some of these programs include production meter testing and calibration, small and large water meter replacement, leak detection, pressure management, district metered areas, valve inspection and financial reporting and auditing. There were also unexpected benefits to our NRW reduction efforts. Simply having a multi-discipline team meeting monthly allowed us to learn more about the many functions of DWR, and how we can help each other make the Department as a whole more efficient.
Sponsored by: Georgia Environmental Protection Division; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Water Resources Institute; The University of Georgia, Water Resources Faculty.
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