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Get Smart: Investigating Metering and Apparent Water Loss

Undergraduate Practicum - Winter 2020
Alillia Clements, Ana Cabrera, Joseph Hanson, Joseph Little, Rip Livingston, Justin Oetting

Water loss has been at the forefront of water utilities’ priorities, with The Guardian estimating 45 billion liters (around 12 billion gallons) of water being lost on the global water systems daily. As the worldwide population increases, so does the demand for freshwater and the pressure on water utilities to minimize water loss.

Due to the recent droughts in California that prompted a state of emergency in 2014, water loss has become an especially pressing problem for the state. Approximately 96% of California’s water is provided by public utilities, which in 2015 alone withdrew an average of 5,147.74 million gallons of water per day to service around 35 million customers. As a response to the California's water scarcity, the Legislature passed Senate Bill (S.B.) 555. S.B. 555, signed by the governor in 2015, requires each urban water supplier in California to submit a complete water loss audit report to the Department of Water Resources. As part of S.B. 555, in 2020 the State is set to establish performance standards regarding volume water losses based on data submitted from the audit reports. Water loss can be categorized as real or apparent. Real losses refer to water lost from leaks and main failures, and apparent water losses refer to those that come from unauthorized consumption and meter inaccuracies. Under S.B. 555, water audits also require agencies to breakdown apparent water losses into unauthorized consumption, customer meter inaccuracies, and systematic data handling errors.

Our team was tasked by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) to examine the effect of smart meters on the reduction of apparent water loss for their 26 member agencies. Our overarching research goal is to quantify the effect smart meters have on apparent water loss while comparing water loss and demographic information among BAWSCA member agencies to complement that analysis.