Allan Lambert – leader of the 1st International Water Association Water Loss Task Force,
Allan Lambert: „Don’t be afraid to listen to, learn from the experiences of your team and other people”
AA: How serious is the issue of water loss today as compared to 10 years ago? How does Europe stand in terms of water loss management? Are the water loss reports reliable?
AL: Any country that claims to be serious about Water Loss management should be prepared to report and publish independently audited figures using best practice standard IWA terminology and Water Balance calculations of NRW and its components (Unbilled Authorised Consumption, Apparent Loss, Real Loss); Water Loss = Apparent + Real Losses. Some countries in Europe are doing this, or moving in this direction, to a greater or lesser extent – Austria, Bosnia, Cyprus, Germany, parts of Italy, Malta, Portugal, Serbia, Spain. Others are not. In fact no-one knows how good performance really is because so little data is published, apart from %s by volume, which cannot be used for meaningful comparisons, and are easily open to abuse and manipulation. Countries and Utilities need to distinguish between basic traditional performance indicators (such as losses per km, per connection, per property) that can be used to track an individual Utility’s progress (process benchmarking), and performance indicators such as ILI that are designed to compare their technical performance with others (metric benchmarking). The Water Blueprint, launched by the European Commission in November 2012, proposed that each country should have the opportunity to choose its own performance measures for water loss management. That does not seem like progress to me; poor performance can continue to be easily hidden by those who wish to do so.
AA: Several water loss seminars and conferences were held each year in European countries, such as the LOSS WATER 2010 and 2012, the conferences in Sofia, Bulgaria, Ferrara, Italy, London, UK etc. What impact have such events on water loss strategy and management of companies that face such problems? Have successfull strategies been already implemented?
AL: These seminars and conferences are extremely important, They enable people with aspirations to improve their Water Loss management to be inspired by an ever-increasing number of international success stories based on the IWA Water Loss Specialist Group practical approaches, and to meet international colleagues who are willing to help them. AA: What are the latest news at these conferences? What are the current trends? AL: From my perspective, the biggest development in the last few years has been the increasing recognition of the fundamantal importance of pressure management. 12 years ago, less than half of the Countries subscribing to an IWA International Water Loss review mentioned pressure management; now there are few who do not acknowledge the multiple benefits, which include reduction of bursts, extension of asset life, and efficient use of energy, as well as the previously known reduction in night flows and leak flow rates. AA: What is the best approach to water loss reduction and control, in your opinion? What steps need to be taken? AL: The first step is to be honest and admit that you have a problem; then start to quantify the problem and prioritise the most appropriate sequence of actions for the particular state of each system. Don’t be afraid to listen to, learn from the experiences of your team and other people. There are no ‘silver bullets’, no magic solutions, only gradual progress achieved through a rational professional approach by dedicated professionals, supported by management which truly recognises that water loss management is a continuous activity, for ever.
AA: Do you think DMA’s are the most effective solution for water loss monitoring? What would you suggest for ring networks with many nodes of incoming and outgoing water? Is there an alternative to DMA’s?
AL: DMAs have many advantages, but the ‘rules’ on sizing and frequency of measurements that apply in one country are not automatically transferable to others. ‘Rate of Rise of unreported leakage’ is a key parameter, and to gain the full benefits of active leakage control interventions, the pressure in all DMAs should be capable of being controlled, either individually or as a group of DMAs. AA: How effective are the current technologies for leak detection for polyethylene pipes, known for poor transmission of leak sounds? AL: This is definitely not a topic I am professionally competent to comment on – I leave that to specialist colleagues such as Stuart Hamilton and Malcolm Farley .
AA: In most countries, companies try to reduce water pressure in the supply system, while in some parts of Germany, they try to replace many pipes in order to maintain high pressure (approximately 6 bar). Which approach is more realistic?
AL: Few countries have infrastructure of such a high quality as Germany; the standards for pressure at customers’ premisies are generally related to height of buildings. You might find that system pressures in Germany are not always as high as you think, but as they do not publish such statistics, how are we to know? For most countries, reduction of excess pressure and stabilisation of pressure in distribution systems is likely to be an excellent water loss control strategy.
AA: How important is the leak detection staff role, considering the use of SCADA for remote pipe monitoring, leak detection and data transmission?
AL: I am full of admiration for your initiatives to improve the training and provide for leak detection staff to exchange experiences. When I worked in Operations in Welsh Water, I always tried to listen and learn from the local knowledge and ideas of leak detection staff. When I do training at Utilities now, I always try to talk to the leak detection staff whenever possible, as you can quickly find out many important facts which are not monitored by SCADA!
AA: Do you think we’ll have self-repairing pipes in the future? AL: Given the rate of technological progress, I think we will all be surprised by what is possible 10 years from now. AA: What are your plans for 2013?
AL: To continue to try to help as many people as possible to become better at water loss control, through dissemination of practical approaches based on understanding of fundamental principles that are internationally applicable. Just now I’m close to finishing an upgrade of my website () to provide many free papers, articles, Guidelines, software, blogs etc to anyone who is interested. As an independent consultant, to continue to challenge anyone who attempts to hide poor performance behind flawed statistics, and to set an example by refusing to assign copyright of any of my work to publishers who seek to limit the free spread of knowledge to wider audiences.
AA: How was the Water Loss Task Force established?
AL: In 1995 the Operations and Maintenance Committee of the IWA, chaired by Dr Wolfram Hirner (Germany) established a Water Loss Task Force (WLTF) with 2 objectives a) To recommend a standard international terminology for calculation of real and apparent losses from water balance b) To review Performance Indicators (PIs) for international comparisons of losses in water supply systems The membership of the 1st WLFT was Allan Lambert (UK, Chair), Timothy.G. Brown (representing American WWA), Masanori Takizawa (Tokyo Waterworks and JapanWWA) and Dieter Weimer (Neckarwerke Stuttgart, and DVGW Germany). The WLTF consulted colleagues in many countries before reporting their findings in a paper in AQUA Magazine* (Dec. 1999) and an IWA Blue Pages* (Oct. 2000). The Water Balance and Performance Indicators were also included in the IWA Publication ‘Performance Indicators for Water Supply Systems’ (1st Edition, July 2000). The conclusions were presented at an IWA Conference ‘Systematic Approach to Leakage Control and Water Distribution System Management’ at Brno in May 2001, after which the Task Force was scheduled to end and disband. However, some of the leakage specialist attending the Brno Conference had already started to use the IWA Water Balance and new Performance Indicators, including the Infrastructure Leakage Index (ILI). They were so enthusiastic about these practical concepts that they volunteered to form a 2nd Water Loss Task Force, to ensure that the new approaches were promoted internationally, and to work together to gain a better understanding of many technical aspects of water loss control that were not properly understood. And the rest, as they say, is history – under the leadership of Ken Brothers (Canada), Bambos Charoulambous (Cyprus) and Tim Waldron (Australia). The success of the WLTF was recognised when it became the Water Loss Specialist Group, in 2010.
* Copies of these papers will be available for free download from the ‘Free Papers and PPTs’ webpage at http://www.leakssuite. com from 1st March 2013.
Alin Anchidin Water Leak Detection Department, Aquatim SA Timişoara