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Water loss: seven things you need to know about an invisible global problem

posted 4 Mar 2015, 06:00 by RCN Uganda
A staggering 46bn litres of drinking water are lost globally every day. What can consumers, business and governments do?

While concerns over water conservation, access and hygiene feature high on the news agenda, the problem of water loss often gets overlooked. Yet this vital issue affects millions of lives. A recent live discussion hosted by Guardian Sustainable Business looked at the role business and government should play in addressing global water loss and where things are set to go next. Here’s what you need to know.

What do we mean when we talk about water loss?

Water loss is often referred to as non-revenue water (NRW) – water that is produced in a network but never reaches the consumer. This might be due to aging networks which haven’t been properly managed, metering inaccuracies, theft or unmetered authorised consumption, like water used from fire hydrants.

It’s not a problem restricted only to the developing world either – Montreal, for example, loses 40% of the water it produces (pdf).

But Louise Whiting from WaterAid was keen to make sure the word “lost” is properly defined. “Very often”, she said, “water is used but then returned to the system in virtually the same quantity”.

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