Water conservation is a widespread concern, with at least 40 states anticipating water shortages by 2024. The causes for the potential shortfall are well known and include droughts and climate change, poor management of demand from a growing population, and water pollution. Dramatically compounding the problem is water loss due to leaks. On average, 14 to 18 percent of total daily treated potable water in the United States is lost through leaks, with some water systems reporting water-loss rates exceeding 60 percent. Because much of the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure was built in the 1970s and 1980s, water systems are racing against time to make crucial upgrades, often without adequate funding.
Aside from public infrastructure issues, water systems are fighting a losing battle on another front—household water leaks. While water conservation measures and education efforts are important, solutions to address household water leaks are critical. An average household in the U.S. uses about 300 gallons of water every day, 12 percent of which is lost to water leaks from interior plumbing and exterior water service lines, which are aging along with public mains. On average, a single exterior household water line break can waste 15,000 gallons, based on average flow rates and water shut-off times. In total, annual household leaks across the U.S. amount to a staggering 900 billion gallons, which is equal to the annual usage for approximately 11 million households.
In addition to wasting water, pipe repairs can be an unexpected cost for homeowners who are unaware of their responsibility for service lines on their property. During a panel on aging infrastructure, Mayor of Baltimore Brandon Scott said, “The infrastructure in our country is old. While we are having this discussion nationally about how we are going to improve that, at the local level we have to do things that protect our citizens.” According to Vince Williams, Mayor of Union City, Georgia, and Immediate Past President of the National League of Cities, those on a fixed income are particularly vulnerable. “A lot of my population are seniors and any water pipe break, if it’s not on the city side but the side that the homeowner is responsible for, causes a great difficulty for them. I had a constituent who was in her seventies had a pipe break on her side and she spent over $4,000 to take care of the repairs,” he said.
In partnership with over 1,000 water service providers across North America, HomeServe offers homeowners optional protection plans to cover the cost of repairing or replacing private-side water lines and interior plumbing and drainage lines. Expeditiously addressing these leaks minimizes resulting water loss. The solution includes homeowner education to clarify service line responsibility and understanding of how to solve issues through the provider’s program. Our ServLine leak protection program, currently implemented by over 150 water systems, offers reimbursement of a high water bill due to a leak. The program requires that a leak is repaired prior to bill forgiveness, incentivizing the customer to address the problem quickly. In addition to reducing waste of a crucial resource, offering these solutions increases customer satisfaction with the provider and goodwill.