- A few words about you..
– Where you were born, where you live, what schools have you done, where you work now
I was born in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina, and I currently live in in Asheville, North Carolina. With my work I travel across North America, so I always enjoy Asheville when I am home. I went to University at NC State, and studied Environmental Engineering.
- Tell us something about your professional experience? How long you worked in the field of water loss? How did you get in touch with the water loss field? Who teach you this?
I am a managing partner with Cavanaugh, and have been with this company for 16 years now working on water loss for most of this tenure. Much of our focus on water loss stemmed from some leak detection work in Romania in the late 1990s, followed by a significant drought in the Southeastern US in the 2000s. My training and expertise was developed as a culmination of applying conventional civil engineering problem-solving to the water balance and water loss analysis. My original experience was honed on water system design and operation, before I moved into water audits & loss control programs.
- What are the projects you attended? What conditions did you encounter?
In my career I have had the privilege of working with over 1,000 water utilities to conduct water audits with validation and water loss program development. They have ranged in size from a few dozen connections to several hundred thousand connections. While there are obvious differences in small and large utilities, I would argue they share a common thread of being resource-limited and the need to be diligent in their water balance validation practices. Data system sophistication and scale of program implementation are where the greatest variances lie.
- What mentors did you have and what useful tips have you received? What books do you recommend?
I have been privileged to work with and learn from my expert partners at Cavanaugh, water loss experts in North America including George Kunkel, and international experts including Allan Lambert and Julian Thornton. I will say there is always a healthy amount of self-study needed in this ever-evolving field as well. Probably the most useful technical advice I’ve received is to always be aware of your context, and careful not to expend undue time on details that don’t impact the big picture while neglecting details that do. And always maintain a good sense of humor.
5 In the US – California there is a water crisis. I understand that water police patrols have been set up to catch the water theft from hydrants. How could we reduce these thefts?
Interestingly, this is one of those details – at least in North America – that I would say is not moving the needle. Meaning theft from hydrants, while it does occur, is not a ubiquitous issue for most North American utilities, and even basic theft mitigation programs prove adequate for most utilities.
- How do you see the current state of US water loss management?
That’s a broad question for sure, but I would say that water loss management is becoming much more widely recognized and accepted as a practice versus 10 to 15 years ago, even within the last 5 years. One indicator I would point to are an increased number of specific water loss control program case studies coming up the North American Water Loss 2017 Conference – as compared to our inaugural event in 2015. Another indicator is the prevalence of companies that are coming to the North American market, from leak detection technologies to data analytics, the number of vendors seems to have exploded within just a few short years.
- I understand you had collaborations in Romania. Can you detail this topic?
Cavanaugh was awarded two US AID ecoLinks grants to promote leak detection and loss abatement in Iasi, Romania. The short summary of our work with – at the time – Rajac Iasi (now Apa Vital) is that we delivered and demonstrated the value of leak loggers and moving their leak detection program from a reactive to proactive methodology. Further details can be found in the summary report from USAID, here: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDABW626.pdf
A brief write up can be found here – page 10: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnada703.pdf
- What do you think are the similarities and differences in terms of water loss between the US and Romania?
As this initial work was performed in 1999/2000, Romania was going through a privatization effort whereby they were bringing their management practices up to EU standards. Rajac Iasi was a very well run utility with proactive leak abatement practices. The volume however of unreported leaks that were not surfacing was tremendous. They needed a means by which to move faster through the system to discover and repair leaks before they surfaced. At the time of the project, the recovery of lost water had a direct impact on water supply, as well as energy savings.
This was more of a reduction of the backlog of leaks perspective then it was based on an economic intervention. There are areas of the US where scarcity and dependability of supply mirrors what we saw in Isai in 1999, in that any recovered loss could be made available for additional customer consumption. The vast majority of the US however, is fortunate to have abundant supply and the cost of water (variable production cost) is still relatively cheap therefore the catalyst for economically based action may not be as readily apparent.
Both Romania and the US have embraced the IWA/ AWWA best practices for Non-Revenue Water management and are beginning to break their losses down by their respective components and address them at economic levels.
- You are in this year’s second edition of the North American Water Loss Conference. Can you briefly tell us how this action started and how do you appreciate the impact of this conference for US / Canada specialists?
About 10 years ago, it was decided that the issue had gained enough steam to warrant a dedicated conference in the U.S. The first biennial event was held in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015. It took several years to marshal the bureaucratic and logistical support needed to make the non-profit event possible. An effort like this needs an organization willing to front it, be the face of it, and the planning committee works hand in hand with that organization. All of that took time but we were able to get there after several years of planning. For 2017, we are working with the California/Nevada Section of AWWA as the event host, and they have been tremendous. Other partners include the Alliance for Water Efficiency and US EPA. Overall the conference has been a significant milestone, drawing over 500 attendees in 2015. To me this is another indicator – a critical mass of utilities and practitioners with case studies to share, and enough demand for a large audience to be there to listen. I believe this perpetuates adoption of best-practices. We have been very happy with the interest the conference has generated so far, and we see a strong trajectory into the future – 2019 and beyond. We hope the international community of NRW stakeholders will consider joining us in San Diego, California this December – – www.northamericanwaterloss.org
- How does AWWA involve in water loss management? Are there other professional organizations directly involved in this area?
AWWA is a key organization considered the authoritative resource for water loss management guidance in North America. Related to this, the Water Research Foundation has also been very active at producing research projects for many years related to water loss. Within AWWA, the Water Loss Control Committee (WLCC) is the second largest specialist group, and is responsible for key reference materials and tools used by the North American water loss industry. Specifically, these tools include the M36 Manual for Water Audits & Loss Control Programs (currently in its 4th Ed.), the Free Water Audit Software (currently in version 5) & its companion Compiler tool. The WLCC is very active, with 8 distinct subgroups that focus on outreach, business planning, real loss, apparent loss, regulatory practices, the M36 Manual and the Free Water Audit Software. Recently a Performance Indicators Task Force has been formed comprised of the WLCC leadership which will be examining the issue of an effective suite of metrics that can serve all stakeholders – technical and non-technical alike. The challenge of performance metrics is one that plagues the multitude of regulatory jurisdictions across North America. Some have a better handle on it than others, but fair to say none have come up with a truly effective performance benchmarking framework yet.
- In the past, water losses were discovered by direct listening to the pipes, and now they are discovered using the drones and the satellites. What are the direction for the future? Will we be able to predict the loss of water using computer software?
It is an exciting time to be in the leakage management world, with innovations like those you mentioned, and others popping up like the use of electric currents to find leaks. To me the direction of the future isn’t going to be dictated by the sophistication of the technology – though this can certainly play a part. The direction for leak detection I believe will be driven by the relationship between the cost-effectiveness of the technology and the utility’s leakage cost mitigation. In North America, leakage remains relatively ‘cheap’ for many utilities – though this is changing as time moves on and resource availability/constraint enters a new era.
Regarding accurate desktop prediction of loss – – in theory, yes this is possible. But I believe we are a long time away from this becoming a widespread application, at least in North America. The real-time data requirements are going to be the barrier for 90% of North American water utilities. While the water sector is headed in this direction, the pace is decades – not years.
- How can we become better in identifying, locating and reducing water losses?
I think the answer lies more in technique than technology. Regular, validated water auditing to understand volumes and values of disaggregated loss components, to set appropriate targets and guide interventions. This is the greatest area of improvement needed for 99% of North American water utilities. This includes, at a minimum, annual auditing and ongoing monitoring of nightflows at the greatest resolution a given utility’s data will support, and optimal customer meter testing for revenue protection.
- Using private companies to look for water losses would be a solution in reducing water losses?
I remain intentionally neutral on this question. If a utility can be most effective building internal capacity to execute and maintain a water loss program – that should be the chosen path. Outside help in some cases is the most cost-effective approach. Either way, the utility must take ownership in the water loss program for sustained results.
- Water Loss Detectives know the magazine? What do you think?
I appreciate what you guys are doing to help bring attention to the issue. I do enjoy reading the publication whenever it comes out. Maybe I can get a tattoo of your mascot.