States across the U.S. are beginning to conduct water system audits as a way to help develop water loss programs. Brian Skeens discusses what the State of Georgia is doing, as a leader in this practice, to address water loss in Georgia through the Georgia Water Stewardship Act and other initiatives.

By: Brian Skeens, CH2M HILL Global Technology Leader for Water Distribution services

Brian Skeens will present his paper, “Georgia’s Approach to Developing Performance Measures After 2 Years of More Than 200 Validated Water Audits (Largest in North America)”, co-authored by Cavanaugh & Associate’s Will Jernigan and Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Lebone Moeti during AWWA ACE14 during the Poster Session on Monday, June 9, from 2-5 p.m., in the Exhibit Hall. 

Get a complete list of CH2M HILL’s ACE14 participation.

In 2010, Governor Sonny Perdue signed the Georgia Water Stewardship Act, a measure designed to help the state embrace water-saving ideas and implement policies that provide for smart growth initiatives that are sustainable and help secure water supplies.

One of the provisions of the Georgia Water Stewardship Act requires water providers in the State of Georgia serving more than 3,300 individuals to conduct annual water system audits and to develop programs for minimizing water loss in Georgia. Collectively, these water systems provide 80 percent of Georgia’s population with potable water.

While other states across the U.S. are completing similar types of water system audits (such as Texas, California, Tennessee, and New Mexico), the trend is fairly new, and the State of Georgia is the only state thus far conducting both auditing and validating of its water utilities. However, with drought, population growth, and increasing focus on sustainability, the trend is predicted to catch on in more and more states across the nation.

Georgia is using the International Water Association/American Water Works Association audit method, a respected and standard best practice method that was rolled out in North America in 2003. The method helps water systems classify and put a dollar value on losses, helping utilities to determine ways to mitigate those losses.

The audits look at components of non-revenue water (water pumped through the system) to find leaks and to determine areas of inaccurate metering. CH2M HILL personnel are helping with this important effort, creating guidance manuals for water utilities, conducting training for utility staff, and providing validation of water audit activities. This validation focuses on evaluation of data sources and grading values, with review of data inputs to determine consistency of reporting. When combined with the 100 validated 2012 audits for the small systems, there are more than 200 validated audits, which is the largest in North America. To continue to focus on water savings and sustainability, the State of Georgia has committed to conducting this validation effort for both large and small systems annually.

Once areas of water loss are determined, CH2M HILL works with utilities and water users to put into place activities and measures to reduce water loss and recover lost revenue. In Georgia, CH2M HILL, and a select group of stakeholders are working to define performance targets to ensure they are achievable, effective, measurable, and in keeping with the state’s goals for water security. Performance targets will be process-based measures to show progress toward increasing validity of water audit results and in lowering water losses—all aimed at ensuring a healthy, sustainable water supply for Georgia’s residents.

Brian Skeens is CH2M HILL’s Global Technology Leader for Water Distribution services. His 15-year career has focused on local, statewide and regional water and wastewater planning and management. He has led projects involving water distribution system water quality and energy optimization, water conservation for cities and counties, as well as state and regional government entities, to help make the most efficient use of water, and plan appropriately to extend the life of current water supplies and other capital infrastructure. Brian has served as senior technologist and project manager on water system and water supply projects for large and small water systems, as well as regional and state planning for water supply.