smart water management

Institutions and End Users can only benefit from Water Loss Programs Implemented by Utilities part 1 of 2

With leak detection technology developing rapidly with increasing benefits, many large utilities do not have the internal expertise in the technologies most appropriate for monitoring their system. Water Utilities and the Institutions that manage them are largely governed by the perception of, and attitudes to, leakage and water misuse. Leakage in distribution systems is a major problem for water utilities throughout the world, in both wealthy and developing nations. Water distribution pipes in many industrialized countries are approaching the end of their useful life and many governmental agencies within their respective countries have declared that the replacement or rehabilitation of water distribution and transmission systems is one of their country’s biggest infrastructure needs. Leakage rates of 10-20% are considered normal in the US, but the aging infrastructure in some areas can be losing up to 45% of water distributed. In developing regions such as Latin American and in countries such as India, Non-revenue water (NRW) is estimated at 40%, due to aging pipes, poor network design and construction, damage to exposed pipes, and leakage at poorly sealed connections. NRW must be measured in the amount of water wasted as well as the amount of energy expended and extrapolating to provide annual megawatts worth of water pump usage wasted and millions of gallons of water lost.

Utilities and governmental organizations should work with solution providers that have an established track record and are innovating advanced leak detection technology. This will provide the owner with accurate failure points via non-destructive methods, assess current pipe conditions and detail specifics of the need and solution during budget requests/expenditures for the costly pipe repairs; this is often the failure point in many Water Loss Management Programs. Any data gathered during leak surveys must provide information that is particularly valuable to utilities in managing their most critical large diameter in-grounds assets. However, previous methods and monitoring practices provided data that was static and only provided a point-in-time snapshot of the transmission main system. This lack of continuous data represents an unacceptable level of operational risk for large-diameter transmission main failure, as it is costly and includes flooding, property damage, insurance claims, service disruption, and reputation damage. It is clear that utilities demand actionable information about their critical transmission mains in a timely manner, yet are highly sensitive to financial and logistics constraints.

Non-revenue water (NRW) typically consists of three categories:

  • Unbilled authorized consumption, this usually makes up a small fraction of NRW
  • Apparent losses; this includes illegal connections, meter inaccuracies that can account for a sizeable percentage of NRW
  • Real losses; this consists of any water that is physically lost from the system before it reaches a consumer’s water meter, with a vast majority due to leakage in the system

Non-Revenue Water – Leak Detection Technologies

Older technologies in practice include acoustic (ground microphones, acoustic loggers on pipe fittings, and tethered in-line leak detectors), infrared thermography, chemical tracer, and mechanical methods.

Emerging technologies include ground penetrating radar (GPR), combined acoustic logger and leak noise correlators, digital correlators, and radio-frequency interferometers and un-tethered leak detection. Advanced signal processing and acoustics sensor design locates very silent leaks; added automatic noise filtering and velocity calculator allows high accuracy in pinpointing leaks on any material of pipe or multiple pipe types. The addition of PC-based software and streamlined graphical user interfaces on many newer systems optimizes operator experience and confidence to determine leak position.