Inventors Developing New Pipe-Inspection Tools
By Sara Jerome
Technology under development in Australia could make it easier for water utilities to check their infrastructure for leaks.
The $16 million project, scheduled for completion in 2016, is testing "advanced techniques to assess the state of the underground pipes, preempting potential breaks before they happen," according to Phys.org.
The new technology largely centers on the power of sensors. It includes an internal sensor that would travel through the pipes to collect data, as well as external sensors that would evaluate pipe thickness.
"The internal tools generate an electromagnetic field or an acoustic signal that allows us to estimate the thickness of the pipe wall, and the presence of defects, as it moves from one end to the other," said researcher Gamini Dissanayake.
The project has three parts, according to the research project's website. It analyzes how, when, and where pipes fail within the network; how to assess the condition of the pipes cost-effectively; and how to calculate pipe deterioration rates accurately with respect to the pipe environment.
The inventions could help minimize both non-revenue water problems and the cost of replacing faulty pipes, according to the article. Officially known as the Advanced Condition Assessment Pipe Failure Prediction Project, it is being conducted at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Monash University and the University of Newcastle.
Sensors and monitoring equipment are nothing new to the water sector, but the project is proposing cheaper and more effective models. At water utilities, new sensor technology is helping with aging infrastructure problems.
For instance, sensors have helped improve the water infrastructure of South Bend, IN, where the sewer system is over 100 years old. After South Bend became liable for $797,500 in fines for overflows due to faulty infrastructure in 2008, the city decided to install a sensor system, according to the technology manufacturer INW, whose sensors it purchased.
INW initially shipped 98 sensors. “We found them to be very robust and very reliable,” said utility official Tim Ruggaber, who managed the project. "With accurate information at its fingertips 24/7, the City has been able to...identify key areas for renovation projects," the company said.
Another example is Cincinnati, which is eyeing sensor technology as it works to improve the quality of its drinking water. "As the water becomes cleaner, [the city's water utility] can focus on its infrastructure needs," by assessing newer technologies, according to WVXU.
Water officials there want "to use sensors to monitor pipes which typically last about 100 years."
“[We want to use sensors] because the pipes are underground. We have no feel for it. If we have sensors, we have a better way of knowing its health, maybe we can stretch it to 130 and maybe more," said the director of the Greater Cincinnati Water Works.
For more Water Online reporting on infrastructure needs, click here.
Image credit: "Cast Iron Water Pipes," © 2010 Newtown grafitti, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/