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Unchecked water loss within water supply systems is a public concern: it wastes public money, hinders the economy, and risks long-term water scarcity. Previous studies and surveys about water loss demonstrate the long-held belief that maintaining robust water service infrastructure is key to an efficient and sustainable water system. This survey report constitutes a first step, by providing a baseline of current water loss practices and policies among water supply utilities that can be used to support collaboration in developing strategies for improvement. This report also acts as a case study in data collection and benchmarking that can be used to develop water loss control solutions and improve public reporting.
The water industry as a whole is a rising cost sector, meaning that the future cost of water services will be greater than historical costs. In the U.S., the EPA estimates water and wastewater infrastructure will require over $500 billion dollars of capital spending on infrastructure over the next few decades. These projections include $54.8 billion needed for combined sewer overflow (CSO) control, and another $9 billion for stormwater management programs. As communities continue to grapple with perennial budget shortfalls, mounting water infrastructure needs, and overwhelming stormwater pollution problems, we need to ensure we are making the best water infrastructure investment decisions (economically, socially and environmentally) and utilizing funds the most efficiently. This working paper explores how “integrated resource planning” (IRP), a least-cost, conservation-oriented approach, can help improve the efficiency of water utilities, conserve water resources, reduce costs and bolster community wellbeing within the Great Lakes region. Now more than ever, water planning must work to incorporate sustainable practices which recognize the interconnected nature of water supply, wastewater and stormwater management. IRP is a planning methodology which works to recognize these relationships from a least-cost, publicly transparent, and scenario-based planning perspective.