[ADB] The Issues and Challenges of Reducing Non-Revenue Water

WB Water Communities
WB Water Communities World Bank Group • 15 June 2010

Rudolf Frauendorfer Roland Liemberger


Chronic water losses have been the hallmark of urban Asia’s water management over the decades. This may not have mattered much during an era of assumed plenty. But the rapid growth of Asia’s towns and cities, coupled with increased volumes of water for irrigated agriculture, energy, and industry, has meant that there is much less water to go around in the urban centers. The loss of an estimated 29 billion cubic meters of treated water every year, valued conservatively at $9 billion, is no longer something that Asia’s urban water managers can ignore. 

Reducing these water losses is critical to efficient resource utilization, efficient utility management, enhanced consumer satisfaction, and postponement of capital-intensive additions to capacity. Wherever active water loss reduction programs have been initiated and sustained, the gains to consumers and utilities alike have been significant. In fact, as Frauendorfer and Liemberger point out, the costs of improved service delivery are much lower when undertaken through investments in non-revenue water reduction rather than through investments in capital projects to augment supply capacities. 

This report has arrived not a moment too early. At a time of blistering economic growth in Asia and rising competition for scarce freshwater resources, Frauendorfer and Liemberger remind us of the enormity of the urban water challenge in Asia, the critical role of non-revenue water management, its constituent elements, and measures to address it. This is a “must read” for urban water practitioners, policy makers, owners of water companies, investors, and those of us in the development business who can, hopefully, induce changes in Asia’s urban water management, armed with the new insights that this paper provides.


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