Posting in Cities
Research from water infrastructure monitoring company TaKaDu suggests that a sharper focus on appropriate pricing encourages fewer unexplained leaks and losses.
Contributor’s Note: This is an ongoing column in water sustainability, consumption and management issues. The rationale is simple: water is a more urgent priority for corporate social responsibility programs and becoming more so every day.
If people have to pay the "true" price of water, are they less likely to waste it? Some new research by TaKaDu, which is a water infrastructure monitoring technology company, suggests that there is a direct between how water is priced and how much attention communities and water utilities pay to how much is lost.
It's a viable subject to debate, because figures from the World Bank suggest that between 25 percent and 30 percent of urban water supplies never make it from the source to their desired destination. TaKaDu reports that the cities that it monitors are showing water loss rates of 4 percent to 62 percent.
TaKaDu monitors urban water network for leaks, bursts and water network inefficiencies. Its comments are based on its experience from working with 42 different urban water networks. The company, which offers data through a software as as service application, finds an indirect correlation between water pricing and the lost water. The higher the prices, the less likely there is to be water loss. If water is very low priced or free, there is usually a higher percentage of lost water. When pricing water, TaKaDu suggests, cities need to think more deeply about whether the pricing structure they have chosen properly reflects the costs needed to maintain and operate infrastructure. Tiered pricing may be another consideration, the company notes, especially since it figures that only about 10 percent of the world's water is used for residential purposes.
Said Amir Peleg, founder and CEO of TaKaDu:
"In terms of its economic value and the fact that there is no replacement for it, [water's] value is great than oil. Our mis-pricing of water leads to an increasingly vulnerable water infrastructure that doesn't just waste water and energy. It also risks our future ability to support large metropolitan centers, all of which are depend on an adequate water supply."
As someone who pays at least triple the amount for my annual water bill than when I moved into my home nine years ago, I can't say that I am personally excited by the idea that I should pay more. You'll notice this research says nothing about consumption habits, it simply addresses how utilities get the revenue to treat the basic distribution infrastructure with more respect.
But I do feel it should be valued appropriately, and apparently more water utilities are waking up to that fact -- lest they fact severe shortages in the future that could have been averted by paying better attention to leaky pipes.
Past Water Wednesday posts:
- Tampa Bay, Veolia offer twist on smart water management
- The philosophy behind Molson Coors’ ‘beerprint’
- Tech giant LG extends into water treatment
- PepsiCo, Nature Conservancy share watershed lessons
- Alliance to share water risk data; the value of wastewater
- Greenpeace challenges apparel industry to come clean
- Pushing for more disclosure
- Smarter home irrigation technologies
- Smart grid gains ground with water managers
- 3 water management tips from Intel
- PepsiCo grant supports clean water in rural China
- Many businesses blind to water risks
Sep 27, 2011
What if water utilties charged business more? This would drive up the cost of products to customers in some markets, especially food. However, competition will drive down costs, especially as the economy develops technological means to use less water. Meanwhile there will be more water available, so the cost will go down to residents until the population swells or other uses come on line. This might off-set the increased cost of food, too.
When I was a kiddo we got water from a well, one bucket at a time. 5 gallons of water weights 40 lbs, plus bucket and wet rope, and I was the "Water Dept." Then we got a pump - one of those with the long iron handle and I was in 7th Heaven. Clean, potable water is one of the 3 things we cannot live without and being able to turn a spigot to get it right now is a mixed blessing. If you had to dip a bucket in a well for water, haul it up 40+ feet on a rope and pack it up hill to where you used it you'd be stingy with it's use. Some poeple walk miles for water. Aren't you glad you aren't one of them?
What I did, I started with an small pipe and then changed to a bigger one 5"and I started to collect the rain water then I disconected from the city water more than 3 years ago,We used the water for everything exept drnkin water. and know because our electric Co have gone cracy with the price of the electricity I changed all the fluorecent bulbs with some LED can get at Costco and know I can run all my lights with less watts than a single 60 watts will expend/ Then I covered my inground pool with 1" stirefoam boards and it worked so good that know I run the pump only and hour and a half every day. and I already installed a box that use capacitors that is suposed to lower the cost of the electricity we are using. But no one pay attentionto any of that, Next I will get a 60 watts solar panel and at leat for the lights I will disconect my self from the electric Co. VMS
I don't think this needs to be deeply researched -- every person that has taken an economics course knows that pricing affects demand.
A better way to express what you are saying is that cities who spend more to maintain their water systems see fewer leaks, but have to charge more because of the added expense. The problem with municipal water has always been people want it cheap. Cheap means skipping what should be routine system maintenance to save on operating costs. Among other things, routine maintenance means annual pipe flushing to remove sediment. Even though periodic system flushing is a fact of life on municipal water, people always complain when it happens. Regardless of how much prior notice and publicity there is before the work is started. So annual flushing is usually skipped in election years or when the mayor/city council is in hot water and wants no more bad press. No politician wants rusty water for a week during an election year. This leads to problems with control valves jamming, pipes clogging and pipes bursting from backpressure from clogs.