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Each Year 1.250 Billion Cubic Meters of Treated Water Is Wasted in Iran!

Kayhaan (Teheran Evening Daily)
June 21, 1997; Page: 6


In 1989, 2.250 billion cubic meters of water was treated in the country. Of this, 1.200 billion cubic meters has been wasted due to physical and non-physical factors, trickling out of the system. This amount of wasted or unaccounted water, valued at 400 billion rials, if recovered, not only constitutes a large income, it can also help conserve water at a moderate level and keep the rise in water rates to a minimum.

Since Iran is an arid and dry country, the project to reduce and control unaccounted waters, is of particular importance especially in recent years with the problems of shortage of rainfall and the reduction of the surface and underground water reserves. Seyyed Bagher Hoseini, the Consultant to the Deputy Minister of Energy, and the Chairman of the First National Conference on the Reduction and Control of Unaccounted Waters, discusses this problem.


In an interview, Seyyed Bagher Hoseini, the Consultant to the Deputy Minister of Energy, and the Chairman of the First National Conference on the Reduction and Control of Unaccounted Waters, explains about the loss of water in the municipal distribution systems and what has been done to reduce this loss.

He first notes that the Islamic Republic is an arid country and says: "The increase in population, and the rising level of culture and sanitation in the society have resulted in a spectacular rise in water consumption. Some steps have been taken in the direction of growth, but we can only say that a definite step towards a steady growth has been taken, when beside the constructive moves dealing with hardware aspects of the water industry, the qualitative problems having to do with the software aspects are also dealt with. One of the most important moves towards the qualitative improvement of the water industry, has been the National Research and Development Project of Municipal Water. Among the goals and policies of this project are effective applied education and the training of a body of experts to optimize water consumption and to propagate the corresponding culture in the society."

In the constructive trend to develop municipal water, some effective and constructive steps have been taken and in future these attempts will be followed seriously on a larger scale. Referring to the comparative statistics for the country from March 1989 to March 1997, Mr. Hoseini says: "In 1989 the urban population of the country was about 25 million, 86.4 percent of which were using the municipal water services. The total capacity of the water reservoirs in the country was 4.4 million cubic meters and the total number of municipal water connections was about 4,900,000.

The total volume of treated water was declared to have been 2.250 billion cubic meters, about 1.300 billion cubic meters of which was made available to the consumer and the rest amounting to 40 percent of the treated water, was lost. This loss took place through both physical and non-physical factors." He continues: "The total number of drinking water wells in the country in 1989 was about 2700 and the length of the municipal distribution networks was less than 50,000 kilometres. But statistics show that in March of 1997, the urban population has reached 35 million, 98 percent of which are covered by the municipal water services and the remaining 2 percent also use the municipal water in one way or another.

The capacity of the water reservoirs is now about 6.800 million cubic meters and the number of municipal water connections has increased to 6.400 million, the total volume of treated water in the country now amounts to 3.800 million cubic meters. But still from this much treated water, 2.600 million cubic meters is consumed and about 30 percent of it i.e. 1.200 billion cubic meters is lost. So in the two years since the beginning of the National Research and Development Project of Municipal Water, the loss has been reduced by 10 percent.

The number of wells in the country has increased to 3710 and the total length of the municipal distribution networks is now about 65,000 kilometres. In addition, from the qualitative viewpoint, about 19 water treatment plants with a total capacity of 1.93 million cubic meters have entered the network in the past 8 years in the cities of Soosangerd, Rafid, Bostan, Hoveizeh, Hamidieh, Ramhormoz, Haftgel, Shiraz, Qom, Isfahan, Najafabad, Shahinshahr, Khomeinishahr, Behbahan, Astara, Tabriz, Khorramshahr, and Mashhad."

Mr. Hoseini next discusses the loss factors and divides them into physical and nonphysical and says: "In the physical sector, water is lost through leaks in the distribution system, in the connections, in the reservoirs, in the transfer lines, or during incomplete stages of the treatment process; these physical leaks constitute about 48 percent of the unaccounted water. The remaining 52 percent pertains to nonphysical losses which include illegal connections, malfunctioning or inaccurate water meters, and mistakes made by the agents in reading the counters or their failure to read the meters measuring commonly consumed water. The main problem is that the water meters made in the country, are not very accurate and do not record low flows."

He continues: "The factors affecting the unaccounted water, used to be complex and unidentified; those involved in the water industry could not identify where the water was being lost. Using universal data and the experiences the advanced countries had in this respect, and utilizing the services of 4 Iranian consultant engineers and the experts and specialists of the Ministry of Energy, a description of engineering and technical services was prepared. On this basis introductory studies of unaccounted waters started, and after one year we were able to present a clear definition of the unaccounted water and even determine the loss percentages for each centre.

For example, 11 percent of the losses result from the inaccuracies and errors in the meters and their malfunctioning, 3 percent is due to management problems and human error, and about 5 percent is due to illegal connections, which accounts for 30 percent of the nonphysical factors. In the physical sector, the losses are mainly in the municipal distribution system: the old age of the system and its disintegration, non-standard materials and connections, valves buried and lost underneath soil and pavements, ... are among the factors leading to continuous leaks. In addition, in the past year about 60,000 illegal connections have been discovered and about 140,000 main valves of the distribution system buried under the soil have been detected with metal detectors.

In this connection, 120 kilometres of the main pipes in the system with diameters larger than 200 millimetres and 600 kilometres of auxiliary pipes with diameters less than that, have been reconstructed and the intention is to reduce the municipal water losses to 20 percent by the end of the Second Development Plan and to prevent the loss of more than 400 billion rials of our national wealth. But our final goal should be to limit the losses according to the world standards, to 15 percent."

At the end of the interview Mr. Hoseini noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the first country in the region, which has planned and launched the project to reduce unaccounted waters, without any assistance from foreign specialists.