39% water lost in distribution in 2016

Muscat - 

Water lost in distribution continues to be high in Oman, reaching about 39 per cent of the total water entering the Diam (formerly Public Authority for Electricity and Water) system, in 2016.

The authority, however, is hoping to tackle the losses by employing better technology as well as network monitoring along with introducing a new billing system.

Diam identifies the losses as Unaccounted For Water (UFW). It stated that water enters its system from sources like desalination plants and wells. “It is then transported and distributed to our customers by pipe or via tankers. On the way some water is used but a significant proportion is not accounted for. Some of this is lost through overflowing reservoirs or leaks and the rest is not recorded properly, either due to fraud or theft, to metering or billing errors, or to a lack of metering,” Diam said in its 2016 Annual Report.

The UFW in Diam system increased by 25 per cent to 129.06mn m3 in 2016 over 103.34mn m3 in 2015.

The total UFW in last few years has remained around 34 per cent but increased to 39 per cent in 2016, according to Diam figures. South Sharqiyah led the list with the maximum 48 per cent of UFW, followed by Muscat at 45 per cent.

According to the International Water Association, around the world UFW or non-revenue water accounts for 25 to 50 per cent of the total supply and in emerging markets it goes up to 75 per cent. The World Bank has estimated that this costs around US$2.9bn annually. Fixing the problem could provide water for 90mn people without requiring one drop of additional water.

Diam stated that no network can avoid losing some water as it passes from source to customer - “and it would not be economic to reduce losses to zero - but it is vital for efficient management of the system that these losses are at an appropriate level that is both technically and operationally manageable”.

“This is particularly the case in Oman where water is a scarce resource and is transported over long distances. Reducing losses to an economic level will also save resources - including fuel for desalination - and money, reducing the need for subsidy and new desalination capacity in the long term,” Diam said.

Diam added that it has focused on the management of its networks with active leak detection and has embarked on a programme of installation of pressure reduction valves which will help in reducing leakages and make them less susceptible to bursts.

“We have also started reviewing the network condition to identify areas where the physical condition of pipes is poor and prone to bursts or leaks and are establishing a network replacement/refurbishment programme which will become increasingly important over time as our assets are becoming older.”

It further said that much of the losses appear to be commercial rather than physical- “part of the explanation for this appears to be changes in billing practice and the increased use of estimates which should unwind over time as actual readings replace estimates”.

“We are also carrying out a detailed review of our billing system ahead of the launch of the new billing system,” Diam said.

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