Water loss reduction is a common goal of most water companies around the world: large or small, public or private, in developed or developing countries.
The context of each specific problem and the stage of development of each water company dictate the nature and extent of the solution. Many water companies, mostly in developed countries, are well run but have their performance indicators limited, for instance, by older assets or steep topography. In such cases, the critical factors are investment, technical knowledge and technology. However, in the majority of the water companies worldwide, this process primarily requires organizational change and the commitment of top management.
The non-revenue water, together with other indicators, helps to position the stage of development of each public water supply system in a convenient pre-efficacy/efficacy/ efficiency/excellence rating scale. The evolution along this rating scale is a common pattern of water companies in search of excellence.
The main objective of this paper is the definition and application of the basic principles of change management to water companies, with an emphasis on the reduction of non-revenue water. Based on case studies - that did not include situations of generalised poverty or non-payment of the water bills - it is argued that five to six years is sufficient, in ideal conditions, to approach excellence, but also that every window of opportunity to improve on the existing situation, great or small, must be taken.
In previously less efficient companies, it is possible that a tipping point - a level at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable - may occur in the first year, with the production of great tangible results. Each water company has its unique complex context, but political support, leadership and time are prerequisites for success.