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10 Expert Tips for Non-Revenue Water Reduction
by Team Kritsnam

In 2022, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) faced a concerning reality: nearly 40% of piped water distributed didn't generate any revenue.

Despite a reported 2% reduction in non-revenue water (NRW) over a year, the NMC still grappled with significant losses. 

This isn't just a Nagpur issue; non-revenue water in Indian cities is widespread, with global losses exceeding $14 billion annually. NRW poses financial strains on utilities, impacting operations and investment capabilities. 

But what exactly is non-revenue water and how to control non-revenue water? This blog simplifies the concept, offering expert tips on understanding and tackling NRW.

What is Non Revenue Water?

Non revenue water (NRW) refers to water that is produced but never reaches the intended customer. Essentially, it's water that isn't billed for various reasons.

According to the International Water Association (IWA), NRW consists of several components:

Unbilled Authorized Consumption

This includes water distributed for firefighting, public fountains, or provided to public institutions for free.

Apparent Losses

These occur due to unauthorized water consumption, such as theft or inaccuracies in water metering.

Real Losses

Also known as technical losses, these occur at mains, service reservoirs, and service connections up to the point of customer metering. Typical causes include leaks, bursts, and overflows.

Globally, it's surprising to note non-revenue water report a quarter of all water put into the network is never billed. Some NRW is used for tasks like flushing pipes or firefighting without charge.

However, the majority is lost due to pipe leaks. Understanding and addressing these components of NRW is crucial for efficient water management and conservation efforts.

Recommended Read: Ways To Conserve Water - Easy And Effective Tips

Challenges Associated with Reducing NRW

Non-revenue water management is a complex task riddled with obstacles. Here are some key challenges associated with reducing it:

Leak Detection Difficulties

Pinpointing leaks, especially underground ones, can be tricky. Traditional methods rely on listening for bursts, which only works for major breaks. Advanced leak detection technologies exist, but they can be expensive to implement.

Aging Infrastructure

Many water networks suffer from aging pipes prone to cracks and corrosion. Replacing these pipes requires significant investment and can disrupt service.

Data Inaccuracy

Effective non revenue water reduction relies on accurate water flow data. In some regions, meter readings might be faulty or meters themselves may be tampered with, leading to skewed data and hindering targeted interventions.

Financial Constraints

Implementing non revenue water reduction strategies like leak detection or pipe replacement requires substantial funding. This can be a burden for water utilities, especially in developing countries.

Lack of Awareness

Sometimes, there's a lack of understanding about the severity of NRW losses and the benefits of tackling them. This can lead to a lack of urgency and hinder investment in solutions.

Fixing of leaky faucets

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Non-Revenue Water Calculation

Non-revenue water (NRW) represents a significant challenge for water utilities. To effectively tackle this issue, we must first understand how to measure it. The non-revenue water calculation formula is simple: 

NRW = the Total Volume of Water Treated - Total Volume of Water Sold

This formula essentially highlights the discrepancy between the water a utility invests in treating and distributing and the water that generates revenue through customer billing.

A high NRW value indicates a significant loss of treated water, impacting the utility's financial health and operational efficiency

By calculating non-revenue water, water utilities gain a crucial performance indicator, enabling them to identify areas for improvement and implement targeted strategies to reduce water loss and enhance overall system effectiveness.

Recommended Read: Science Behind Flow Measurement

Causes of Non-Revenue Water

Understanding the causes of non-revenue water is crucial for efficient water management. These causes can be broadly classified into two categories: real losses and apparent losses.

Real Losses

Real losses are physical losses of water from the distribution system. They are typically associated with infrastructure failures and include:


Leakage is the primary contributor to real losses. It occurs due to cracks, bursts, and corrosion in pipes. Older pipes, especially those made from materials prone to degradation over time like cast iron, are particularly susceptible to leakage.

Poorly maintained infrastructure exacerbates the issue. Additionally, pressure fluctuations within the system can weaken pipes and accelerate the occurrence of leaks.

Overflowing Reservoirs and Storage Tanks

Faulty valves or malfunctioning control systems can cause reservoirs and tanks to overflow, resulting in the wastage of treated water.

This can occur due to inadequate maintenance or aging infrastructure, where components are more prone to failure.

Apparent Losses

Apparent losses refer to water that is lost due to administrative or commercial inefficiencies rather than physical leakage. These include:

Unauthorized Consumption

Unauthorized consumption encompasses various activities such as illegal connections to the water network or tampering with meters to manipulate readings. This is often a significant issue in areas where enforcement of regulations is lax or where there is a lack of monitoring infrastructure.

Metering Inaccuracies

Metering inaccuracies occur when meters installed to measure water usage are faulty or outdated. Such meters may under-register water usage, leading to discrepancies in billing. Factors such as wear and tear, improper installation, or calibration issues can contribute to inaccuracies.

Recommended Read: The Ultimate Guide To Flow Meter Installation For Best Accuracy

Data Management Errors

Mistakes during meter readings, data entry, or billing processes can result in water being unaccounted for. Human error, inadequate training of personnel, or deficiencies in the billing system can all contribute to data management errors.

Unbilled Authorized Consumption

Water provided for firefighting or public services like public fountains may not be directly billed to users, contributing to apparent losses.

While this consumption is authorized, it is often not accounted for in revenue calculations, leading to apparent losses for the water utility.

The impact of these factors varies by region. Developing countries often have higher real losses from aging infrastructure, while developed countries may face more apparent losses from metering issues and unauthorized use.

To address non-revenue water, a comprehensive approach is needed, including infrastructure maintenance, technological upgrades, and effective governance, to ensure sustainable water management for current and future generations.

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Solutions to Reduce NRW

Now that we know the reasons behind non-revenue water, it’s time to address the question, “how to reduce non revenue water”? Here are 10 ways to answer that!

Implement Efficient Leakage Recovery Systems

Effectively addressing leaking pipes and equipment is essential to minimize water loss. Swift detection and repair of leaks can prevent significant losses over time.

Implementing advanced leak detection technologies such as acoustic sensors and satellite monitoring systems enhances the efficiency of leakage recovery efforts, ensuring timely intervention and conservation of water resources.

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Segment the Water Network

Dividing the water distribution network into manageable sections allows for targeted monitoring and intervention, minimizing the impact of leaks and optimizing resource allocation.

By segmenting the network, water utilities can prioritize maintenance and repair activities based on the criticality of each section, thereby reducing overall non-revenue water losses.

Swift Assessment and Repair

Promptly assessing and repairing leaks conserves resources and minimizes disruptions to water supply. Investing in leak detection programs significantly reduces overall leakage.

Additionally, adopting proactive maintenance strategies, such as predictive analytics and condition-based monitoring, enhances the efficiency of leak detection and repair efforts, ultimately reducing non-revenue water losses.

Monitor Network Activities

Utilizing technology like noise loggers and smart sensors enables operators to detect and respond to leaks effectively. District metering areas facilitate precise measurement and management of water pressure.

Continuous monitoring of network activities allows water utilities to identify abnormal patterns or fluctuations in water flow, enabling early detection of leaks and minimizing water losses.

Recommended Read: All You Need To Know About Water Flow Sensors

Control Network Pressure

Effective pressure management reduces water losses from bursts and leaks. Control valves maintain optimal pressure levels, minimizing stress on pipes and conserving energy.

Implementing pressure-reducing valves and pressure-regulating stations helps stabilize the distribution network, reducing the risk of leaks and optimizing water usage.

Utilize Available Data

Harnessing data from smart meters and sensors provides valuable insights for proactive management of the distribution network.

By leveraging real-time data analytics and predictive modeling, water utilities can identify potential areas of water loss and implement targeted interventions to mitigate non-revenue water losses effectively.

Kritsnam's Dhaara smart water meters provide highly accurate data on water consumption, are ISO-certified and NABL-accredited, and provide online logbooks for daily, weekly, and monthly water consumption.

Establish Non Revenue Water Limits

Setting clear targets for non-revenue water levels and implementing monitoring regimes ensures accountability and facilitates timely intervention when necessary.

By establishing non-revenue water limits and performance indicators, water utilities can track progress toward reducing water losses and prioritize initiatives to achieve sustainability goals.

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Combat Illicit Consumption

Addressing issues like water theft and illegal connections requires proactive measures such as hydrant monitoring and enhanced security measures.

Implementing robust enforcement strategies, including regular inspections and penalties for illegal water usage, deters unauthorized consumption and protects the integrity of the water distribution network.

Prioritize Quality Products and Solutions

Investing in high-quality infrastructure and solutions is crucial for long-term efficiency and sustainability. Quality components reduce maintenance costs and extend the lifespan of the water distribution system.

Partnering with reputable suppliers and conducting thorough product evaluations ensures the reliability and durability of water infrastructure, minimizing the risk of leaks and optimizing operational efficiency.

Promote Training and Education

Raising awareness and providing training on efficient water management techniques is crucial for achieving sustainable water systems. Learning from successful models can inspire effective strategies worldwide.

Implementing education and outreach programs for stakeholders, including water utility staff, policymakers, and the general public, fosters a culture of water conservation and promotes the adoption of best practices for reducing non-revenue water losses.

Recommended Read: How DPS Nagpur is Shaping Younger Minds To Become Water-Conscious

Benefits of Reducing NRW

Reducing non-revenue water offers numerous benefits for water supply operators:

Water droplets splashing into water
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Resource Conservation

Decreased NRW leads to reduced consumption of water resources within the utility, thereby enhancing the operational capacities of the utility and promoting sustainable water management practices.

Energy Efficiency

Lowering NRW results in decreased energy consumption, as less water is required for extraction. This not only reduces operational costs but also contributes to environmental sustainability by minimizing energy usage.

Sewage System Relief

By minimizing leakages, there is a reduction in the load on sewage systems, resulting in lower costs for treatment. This relieves pressure on infrastructure and enhances overall system efficiency.

Water Quality Assurance

With fewer leakages in pipes, there are reduced chances of water contamination. Maintaining water quality ensures the health and safety of consumers, preventing potential health hazards and associated costs.

Operational Efficiency

Implementing a comprehensive NRW reduction strategy improves the efficiency of water utilities. This extends the lifespan of infrastructure, reduces operational losses, and enhances the profitability of water supply companies in a sustainable manner.

By prioritizing non revenue water reduction initiatives, water supply operators can optimize resource utilization, improve service reliability, and foster environmental stewardship for the long-term benefit of communities and ecosystems alike.

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Towards a Leak-Free Future

Despite significant progress, a substantial portion of treated water never reaches paying customers. Non-revenue water is a global challenge demanding innovative solutions.

Glass pitcher and water glass with a pineapple top

Addressing NRW requires a multi-pronged approach. Advanced leak detection technologies can pinpoint hidden losses, while infrastructure upgrades can address aging pipes.

Accurate data collection and management are crucial for targeted interventions. Public awareness campaigns can promote water conservation and deter unauthorized use.

By implementing these strategies, we can achieve a future where every drop counts. Water utilities will operate more efficiently, ensuring a reliable supply for communities. We can conserve precious resources and safeguard public health. Let's work together to secure a leak-proof future for generations to come.

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Bottom Line

Now that you know what is non revenue water, are you ready to be a part of the solution? Kritsnam's Dhaara smart meter empowers businesses to fight water waste. This ultrasonic marvel uses real-time data to pinpoint leaks and optimize consumption, from agriculture to industry. Dhaara boasts tamper detection and secure data storage, making it a hero for a sustainable water future.

Recommended Read- Check out how your business can be water secure.

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