It is extremely rewarding to perform validation calls within Georgia utilities, who participated in the ten month training program that was funded by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) in 2013. The training program, which provided technical assistance and knowledge transfer to over 100 water utilities that serve a population of between 3,300 to 10,000, was believed to be “too complicated” for the small systems to “truly get it.” Over the last few days, I finished a validation call with the City of Tallapoosa, and a follow up call with the City of Harlem. These utilities, which serve 1,700 and 1,400 customers respectively, absolutely get it and see the critical importance of managing Non-Revenue Water.

Quite simply, these cities are in the very advantageous position of effecting change. They are not staffed with managers who “have looked at that in the past and can’t really see the need to make a change.”

Robert Fields in the City of Harlem, for example, has continued to take advantage of the technical resources and assistance that GEFA has made available. They have tested some of his large customer meters and now implementing a leak detection pilot project to sweep through and find those unreported losses that have not yet surfaced.

Source meter testing and the importance of understanding average system operating pressure are just a few of the areas that have really been advanced in their program. Their water team is strong and they are consistently meeting monthly and looking at system input volumes versus billed meter consumption and internal usage. The dialogue with the Board has now moved from percent unaccounted for water to volumes and values of Non-Revenue Water and continuous improvements. While they have not implemented small customer meter testing, it certainly is on the radar screen and something that they can look to try to get funded. Understanding their meter population and appropriate time frames for meter replacement will be systematically evaluated, not determined just on “gut feel.”

In the City of Tallapoosa, the results are very similar. Philip Eidson was able to seamlessly bring in a new staff member, Natalie who replaced a retired utility staff preparing and submitting the annual audit. The basis of the audit and tracking where the numbers came from really stuck with the City of Tallapoosa. When Natalie began the process of preparing this year’s audit, she was able to refer back to previous audits and follow where the information was generated, including the names of reports and where the data was stored on a routine basis. What could have been a steep learning curve, became an easy and pleasurable task for the next generation. This type of continuum of knowledge transfer, confident leadership and stewardship of customer’s dollars and water resources is quite refreshing.

Good on Georgia, and good on these small systems who “it’s just too complicated for.” Many of our larger systems across the nation are not even willing to take a look and question old, outdated business practices. Well done!