Beyond Water Loss: How Leak Detection Benefits Pipeline Management

Beyond Water Loss: How Leak Detection Benefits Pipeline Management

World Water Loss Day on Dec. 4 brings awareness to the fact that billions of gallons of treated drinking water are lost from supply networks every day.1

Water loss and pipeline failures have thrown a spotlight on our often-forgotten buried infrastructure. That spotlight is getting brighter as shrinking shorelines and depleted aquifers leave cities searching for ways to bolster their water resources.

Today, 35 percent of utilities have a water loss control plan while 42 percent are in the process of implementing one.2 Leak detection is a key water loss control strategy, but the benefits don’t stop with water savings. Utilities can also improve the reliability of their network and gain confidence in the location of their buried pipelines with Xylem’s leak detection technologies and services.

Tools of the Trade

The fact that leaks make identifiable sounds has given rise to acoustic leak detection technologies.

External leak detection tools are an effective, non-invasive way to locate leaks on distribution pipelines. Trained technicians use a spectrum of tools — from ground microphones to correlating noise loggers — to narrow their search for a leak until its pinpointed and verified. These tools are affordable and relatively low effort. But some leaks are more difficult to hear than others.

Inline technologies are the best option for locating leaks in large-diameter pipelines of any material. These tethered or free-swimming tools travel inside the pipeline, bringing the acoustic sensor directly to the leak. This enables the tools to pinpoint the smallest leaks and discern between multiple leaks along a section of pipeline. Leaks on large transmission mains have significant consequences that can make collecting highly accurate data worth the additional effort.

Utilities can and should use a combination of leak detection methods to cost-effectively reduce real water loss and improve the efficiency and reliability of their network.

To learn more about how acoustic monitoring and pressure management can help reduce water loss in your distribution system, check out Sensus’ latest blog.

Three Benefits of Proactive Leak Detection

1. Reduce Real Water Losses

Small, subsurface leaks can go unnoticed for a long time. Large leaks can result in high volumes of water lost and extensive collateral damage. These leaks are a drain on scarce water supplies and utility finances. In 2019, $7.6 billion worth of treated water was lost to leaks, and this number is projected to more than double over the next 20 years.3

Leaks in a water network are inevitable. However, most water loss is recoverable with leak detection technology. Repairing leaks saves water, energy and resources used to treat and pump water. Combined with other water saving measures, reducing real water loss can also help meet increasing demand without building additional capacity.

2. Enhance Network Reliability

Leak inspections identify problem areas, such as corrosion, deteriorated joints, and cracking. Even small leaks can eventually result in a pipe failure. By proactively identifying and repairing leaks, utilities can save money and prevent the damage and disruption of a failure. Knowing the frequency and location of leaks can also help utilities prioritize transmission mains for more detailed inspection.

Calgary Leak_800x532.jpg

Xylem’s inline SmartBall platform identified a large leak caused by a circumferential crack on a 48-inch (1,200 mm) prestressed concrete cylinder pipe. Learn more about how the City of Calgary used inline leak detection to avoid a costly failure and extend the life of their critical pipelines. Read the case study.

3. Map Underground Assets

Xylem’s SmartBall® and Sahara® inline leak detection platforms can also map pipelines. Large water utilities operate thousands of miles of underground infrastructure, some buried decades ago. Where records are inaccurate or do not exist, mapping gives utilities confidence in the location of their buried assets. Accurate pipeline location data is integral in evaluating risk, reducing the likelihood of third-party damage, and planning safe, efficient repairs and maintenance work.

Wachs Water Services’ external leak detection services and Pure Technologies’ inline leak detection tools locate hard-to-find leaks without disrupting water service. This gives utilities more flexibility to reduce real water loss and address problem areas before they result in larger failures.

1. International Water Association Water Loss Specialist Group (2021) World Water Loss Day website

2. American Water Works Association (2021) “State of the Water Industry”

3. Value of Water Campaign and American Society of Civil Engineers (2020) “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure”