Water Use Data Collection

Client: State of Utah Department of Water Resources

The State of Utah has been involved in regulating, assisting, and providing funding to local water agencies for decades. Recently, as the demand for water across the state has intensified, the State has come under criticism for not accurately determining water usage by the public water systems. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the State’s method of collecting water use data, estimate the overall accuracy of the results, and make recommendations for further improvements.

Bowen Collins & Associates was tasked with examining municipal and industrial water-use information that was submitted to the State of Utah in 2005, 2010, and 2015. With more than 500 separate water systems reporting data to the State, it was not feasible to prepare a detailed audit of each system as part of this study. To overcome this challenge, BC&A focused on two tasks: (1) meeting with the large water providers that provide the majority of water across the state and evaluating their water usage and source data in detail, and (2) auditing a cross section of several dozen smaller water providers to determine overall data gaps, issues, needs, etc. This approach allowed us to determine the accuracy of overall water usage estimates in the state and develop recommendations for improving the existing program.

By completing the statewide study, BC&A was able to make a number of important observations regarding past efforts:

  1. Despite its limitations, the data collection process has resulted in accurate estimations of potable water use.
  2. The data collection process and resulting data accuracy have improved over time.
  3. Secondary water use and supply estimates are less accurate.
  4. Time and effort spent trying to perfect data entry for small systems may not be cost effective or necessary.

Quick Project Facts:

Based on these observations, several recommendations were also developed to help the State improve water use measurements and increase water conservation future years:

  • Continue current trajectory of improvement in data collection process.
  • Add consideration of system losses into calculation of water demands.
  • Improve estimates of secondary water use including the expanded use of secondary metering.
  • Improve efforts to evaluate supply at the system level.
  • To best utilize available resources, a separate approach to data collection is recommended for small systems.
  • Use revised 2015 estimates as the baseline for future planning and conservation goals.
  • Work with the legislature to accomplish the goals above.