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Leadership and Excellence in
Environmental Engineering and Science

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2016 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science™ Awards Competition Winner

E3S Grand Prize

Grand Prize - Planning

Water Loss Task Force Action Plan

Entrant: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Engineer in Charge: Penny Falcon
Location: Los Angeles, California
Media Contact: Theresa Kim

Entrant Profile

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipal water and power utility in the nation, was established more than 100 years ago to deliver reliable, safe water and electricity to nearly 4 million residents and businesses in the City of Los Angeles (City).

The City's water supply comes from several sources: the Eastern Sierra Nevada via the Los Angeles Aqueduct (LAA), local groundwater, recycled water, storm water, and imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River. The availability of these supplies has been significantly impacted by environmental factors, climate change, and the on-going statewide drought.

As a result, LADWP is actively working to increase the City's local water supply and implement programs to promote conservation and water use efficiency. LADWP's on-going work to reduce water loss from more than 7,000 miles of distribution pipes across the City is a major part of this effort.

LADWP's Water Conservation Policy Group (WC Group) initiated and coordinated the effort to conduct the Water Loss Audit and Component Analysis Project (Project). An outside consultant, Water Systems Optimization, provided technical expertise to help guide LADWP staff during the Project. The WC Group then developed and initiated implementation of a Water Loss Action Plan based on the Project's finding and recommendations.

Project Description

Water loss control is the method of examining inefficiencies in a utility's water distribution system and implementing preventative measures to reduce water losses. In recent years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has embarked on an effort to control water loss in the City of Los Angeles' (City) water system, which includes more than 7,000 miles of pipeline. As LADWP faces rising water costs due to climate change and other environmental factors, water loss control has moved to the forefront of the utility's effort to increase water use efficiency.

In 2013, LADWP invested over $1.5 million to complete a robust Water Loss Audit and Component Analysis (Audit). This Audit followed the American Water Works Association (AWWA) guidelines and methodologies developed by the International Water Association. The goal of the Audit was to identify water system losses, determine the economic optimum level of water losses, and provide recommendations for loss intervention strategies.

Although the City's water system has historically exhibited low levels of water loss, LADWP has determined that the high cost of water production justifies the examination of cost-effective options to further reduce losses and to implement recommendations provided by the Audit. Water loss control measures also help the City comply with emergency water conservation measures enacted by the State of California to address on-going drought conditions.

LADWP created a new and innovative planning and management mechanism to proactively address water loss in a manner that exceeds current state requirements. The mechanism consists of the Water Loss Task Force (Task Force), a group of over 100 LADWP staff and managers focused on reducing water loss, and the Water Loss Task Force Action Plan (Plan), a "living" road map for the Task Force to follow to address the recommendations provided by the Audit and incorporate water loss control measures in ongoing operation and maintenance procedures for the City's water system. The Plan was completed in September 2015 and is estimated to cost a total of $6 million.

Integrated Approach

The Plan will increase water use efficiency to preserve local water supply and property and maintain the system for reliability. By wasting less water, the City reduces its overall environmental footprint, which includes impacts from the energy used to transport, treat, and heat water, and impacts to ecosystems associated with the use of imported water. Regardless of a water leak's magnitude, significant environmental factors may occur besides the amount of water loss. There are unplanned disruptions to the customers' water service and construction-related impacts to repair the pipe such as air quality, noise, and traffic. By proactively preventing water loss, the City will reduce energy consumption, prevent erosion, reduce water contamination, and prevent any disruptions to other utility services.


The Plan was developed through coordination between the over 100 members of the Task Force, that included LADWP staff from water operations, quality, distribution, resources, billing, and metering. The water loss consultant expert, Water Systems Optimization (WSO), provided technical review and guidance. Extensive review was conducted when key milestones were achieved. Engineers, field experts, and WSO reviewed the technical aspects of the Plan, while management focused on feasibility and functionality. The Task Force's extensive review effort aimed to ensure that proposed tasks to prevent and reduce water loss are achievable in a reasonable amount of time and affordable to LADWP ratepayers.

The Plan takes a comprehensive approach to water loss control by addressing meter inaccuracies, database management, equipment testing, and leak detection and prevention, and improving the tracking of loss volumes. The Plan proposes to utilize the latest technology to improve supply and demand volume accuracies, and reduce both apparent and real water losses. For example, the Plan aims to reduce the response and repair time for a leak from an average of 5 days to 3 days or less, resulting in savings of approximately $1.6 million.

The Plan provides an assessment of feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and other benefits associated with implementation of the audit recommendations, as well as a determination of how the recommendations may improve LADWP's Water System efficiency and meet future regulatory requirements related to system water losses.

Originality and Innovation

Completion of the Audit went above and beyond a typical water loss and component analysis outlined in AWWA and included a pilot leak detection program in selected district metered areas. Additionally, the establishment of the Task Force and the development of the Plan in 2014 represent a significant step beyond what other water agencies are doing to address water loss. These efforts have identified LADWP as a national leader in water loss prevention.

The over 100 members of the Task Force collaborated to take recommendations developed through the Audit and create the first strategic plan to address water loss control. By bringing engineers and technical experts together with field personnel and management, the Task Force created a new forum to develop innovative solutions for serious problems related to infrastructure operation, maintenance and reliability. LADWP's Plan serves as a strategic guide that works with LADWP's ongoing water infrastructure plan to ensure the reliability and sustainability of the City's water supply.


The development of the Plan was difficult due to the complexity and intricacy of the aging and large- scale water system in Los Angeles, with varying geographic features, multiple facilities, and complex infrastructure that support the water distribution system. The challenge was to select the most effective and affordable method to address the recommendations in a feasible way within a reasonable time. For instance, the two major tasks of combining several independent databases and prioritizing meters to be replaced are challenging due to the large water system.

Social and Economic Advancement

Ultimately, LADWP's goal is to pursue the most cost-effective options identified in the Plan to reduce water losses in an economically viable manner. This is especially important to the 22% of City residents living below the poverty level. During periods of drought, water conservation is vital not only for consumers, but also to preserve the ecosystems associated with imported water supplies. Water saved will be available for the habitat and wildlife that also rely on it.

Click images to enlarge in separate window.

E3S Photos

These meters are tested at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power meter shop. The meters are tested for accuracy of consumption on a regular basis.

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The Los Angeles Aqueduct provides water from the Eastern Sierras to the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant where it will deliver water to Los Angeles residents through 7,000 miles of pipeline.

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Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff install meters and data loggers. The devices were installed in toolboxes with locks above the ground to protect them from water damage.

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E3S Photos

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power use the latest technology in leak detection to test for subsurface leaks.

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A seesnake test is used to measure the current thickness of a pipe for deterioration and corrosion.

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E3S Photos
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The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff are reading selected meters throughout the City of Los Angeles. The meters were discovered to be covered in dirt, asphalt, or concrete when the streets or sidewalk was repaired. Some meters were tampered or stolen and needed to be replaced. The meter database needed to be updated to reflect the current field conditions.

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E3S Photos

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff work with the water loss experts, Water Systems Optimization, to address the system input volume information. The process consists of verifying the location meters, the meters accuracy, and replacing meters if it was not suitable for the type of reading.

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The fire service meters were discovered in the field to read high consumption levels. The Water Loss Action Task Force provided recommendations to address the maintenance of fire service meters. The meters need to be read on a regular annually to prevent unauthorized usage. This is part of the Vault Inspection program to inspect the lid and meters at the same time.

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