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Cities that charge more for water see fewer unexplained losses (Water Wednesday)

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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:

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure