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2005 Water

Halifax Regional Water Commission (HRWC), Nova Scotia

Water Accountability — the New Way

Population: 359,111

The Halifax Regional Water Commission (HRWC) took a whole new approach to reducing leakage in its water distribution systems. It was the first North American utility to adopt the International Water Association (IWA) methodology, which uses an integrated and proactive approach to water loss control, including leak detection and programs for pipe renewal. For example, the use of noise-mapping surveys and a computerized monitoring system to detect leaks allows the HRWC to pinpoint problems and immediately dispatch crews to the area. Between 1998 and 2004, the HRWC reduced water leakages in the Dartmouth and Halifax systems by 27 million litres annually, a yearly cost saving of $500,000.


The HRWC was formed in 1996 when four municipalities were amalgamated into the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). Following amalgamation, the HRWC began construction of a water treatment plant and transmission main to serve the Dartmouth area. The new plant produced some of the most expensive water in the region, due in part to the requirement to boost water to the distribution system.

To reduce operating costs and capital costs for future system upgrades, the HRWC created a cross-departmental team to determine and implement best practices in water loss control. As much as 30 per cent of a system's water can be lost through leaks from pinpoint holes or broken seals in the pipes. In addition, leaky pipes can pose a public health risk because they are potential entry points for contaminants.

Initially, the HRWC team concentrated on North American best practices, but eventually expanded its search, discovering that the International Water Association (IWA) — an England-based network of water professionals — had recently formed a task force to study water loss control techniques. "They had come up with a new methodology on water loss control, and we got in on the ground floor," says Carl Yates, the HRWC's general manager.


  • As of March 31, 2005, the HRWC's ILI stood at 3.8, an overall reduction of about 27 million litres of water and a cost saving of about $500,000 annually. HRWC was also the first North American utility to adopt the IWA methodology.
  • Reducing the amount of time spent on repairs and minimizing property damage have improved customer service. "Since we're proactive, it's more service friendly for customers because they're warned before the water main is shut down," says Mr. Yates.
  • The HRWC has also reduced its liability. "In terms of paying out claims for property damage caused by water main breaks, the IWA methodology has given us a strong defence in court against claims," says Mr. Yates.
  • Public health is protected. For each month between January 2003 and March 2005, the HRWC surpassed its target for bacteriological safety.

Lessons Learned

  • INVOLVE ALL DEPARTMENTS AND PERSONNEL. Staff members from all departments were trained in the IWA methodology early and receive ongoing training as needed. The steering committee initially created to conduct the best practices review continues to meet three or four times per year to prioritize actions. "Interdepartmental co-operation can sometimes be a double-edged sword," says Mr. Yates. "But when initiatives go well, like they did in this case, it can produce breakthrough results."
  • PRACTISE WHAT YOU PREACH. Mr. Yates says that it increases the municipality's and the HRWC's credibility to show customers that the water utility is doing everything it can for future generations. "Customers recognize that if there is less usage in the distribution system, then we can defer system upgrades to water treatment plants, and that saves them money."
  • SHARE RESULTS. Every HRWC facility displays the progress made as a result of the water accountability program on charts so that staff can take ownership of the results. The charts are updated every three months, and the results are shared with HRM council as part of the HRWC's annual report presentation.

Partners and Collaboration


  • Engineering, plant operations, finance and customer service departments


  • Partners for Climate Protection
  • Green Municipal Fund
Page Updated: 21/12/2015