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Fixing the Leaks


Every day, nearly six billion gallons of treated water are lost due to crumbling infrastructure. Leaky, aging pipes and outdated systems are wasting 2.1 trillion gallons annually. That’s roughly 16% of the nation’s daily water use.

WATCH: CNT talks about water leaks in Chicago 

In a new Joyce-supported report, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) made the case to improve water management infrastructure and called on Great Lakes states to become leaders in that effort.

In the Great Lakes states, a survey of water service providers estimated that 66.5 billion gallons of treated water is lost each year. That’s enough to fill Chicago’s Willis Tower sixteen times, or enough to meet the annual water needs of 1.9 million Americans.


For that very reason, the report, The Case for Fixing the Leaks, asks state and municipal leaders, water service utilities, industry-related agencies, and Great Lakes institutions to work together to conserve water and save money. Water loss from failing infrastructure, faulty metering, and theft raises costs, resulting in higher rates for consumers and lost revenue for utilities. In fact, the cost of water services in the United States increased nearly 90% between 1996 and 2010.

A suite of cost-effective approaches to reducing water loss and providing smart, responsible water service to customers is now available. Best practices include state-of-the-art auditing methods, leak-detection monitoring, targeted repairs or upgrades, pressure management, and better metering technologies. By adopting such practices, water service providers can save themselves and their communities money in the long run, while protecting water resources and generating economic growth.

“When I travel around the Great Lakes states and across the country, I often hear the argument that it will cost too much to fix the leaks and make other infrastructure improvements,” said Danielle Gallet, CNT’s Water Supply Program Manager and Infrastructure Strategist. “To which I reply, ‘How much is it costing us to do nothing?’ We need to better understand what our water loss conditions actually are. Establishing universal auditing and standards across water utilities is a critical, and low-cost, first step.”

The Case for Fixing the Leaks is part of CNT’s Smart Water for Smart Regions initiative, which seeks to help communities within the Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) deliver water services to homes and businesses more efficiently while sustaining water resources.

Michigan Public Radio: U.S. water infrastructure loses billions of gallons daily

The Joyce Foundation Environment Program supports organizations that work to improve water management and reduce polluted water run-off through investments in green infrastructure and effective policy solutions.  

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