News | March 8, 2023

Pennsylvania Water Authority Masters Proactive Leak Detection Using Xylem Technology

Source: Xylem Drinking Water Solutions

It’s 2 am and peacefully quiet. As you sleep, a tiny leak in a water line embedded underneath your home’s lawn is swiftly identified before it becomes a major break. This is thanks to powerful technology that actively listens to water flow. Findlay Township Municipal Authority (FTMA) recognized how this smart water technology from Sensus, a Xylem brand could detect hard-to-find leaks and help tackle unaccounted water loss.

The Authority's Lead Utility Technician Brandon Carter lowers a Permalog+ acoustic monitoring sensor into a valve box to listen and log flow conditions in a water distribution zone near this fire hydrant.

The Allegheny County, Pennsylvania utility added remotely managed acoustic monitoring capabilities to their entire water distribution system. The Sensus Analytics Acoustic Monitoring application combines Permalog®+ technology with the FlexNet® communication network and SmartPoints® to monitor distribution lines and localize leaks.

Acoustic sensors use soundwaves to listen to the distribution system during the night when ambient background noise is at its lowest. The application then sends reports to the authority on pipeline flow conditions via FlexNet, which automatically aggregates and analyzes the data. This technology makes it possible for Findlay Township to receive timely alerts in the office when a leak is detected.

“We needed acoustic monitoring across our entire system, not only problem areas.” said Jason Orsini, Findlay Township Municipal Authority’s General Manager. “This technology allows us to know of any abnormalities within our 75 miles of waterline every day, whereas before with a lift and shift system we may not know of a leak for anywhere up to 35 days.”

Acoustic technology allows technicians to pinpoint leaks remotely before they become major breaks including hard to find issues below the surface near storm drains and even in mine shafts. Gone were the time-intensive days of lifting and shifting loggers from site to site, then returning to the office for readings and back to the field for redeployment on a daily basis. Now the magnetically attached loggers remain in a permanent spot and technicians check on the entire distribution system from their work laptops each morning. Most repairs can now be handled within standard business hours, significantly decreasing employee overtime from 200 monthly hours to less than 70.

Every morning FTMA employees review a clear data visualization of the Sensus Analytics application to precisely locate potential leaks. Pictured standing is Jim Ervin, Foreman and Kyle Schumacher, Water Operations Manager reviewing Permalog+ data.

With swifter response times and better service also comes a more satisfied customer base. Findlay Township residents often have leaks addressed the same day they are detected.

“One of our technicians pinpointed a leak to a private home,” said Orsini. “He knocked on the door and told the homeowner about the leak. The homeowner was shocked and asked, ‘how do you know that?’ Our technicians are using all available tools to provide our customers with improved service. The system works!”

Findlay Township’s smart system also helps with unaccounted water loss which has decreased from approximately 40 percent to five percent since the implementation of smart meters along with acoustic monitoring in the past decade. Orsini adds that the authority’s investment in smart water technology has really paid off saving $100,000 annually on water loss, increasing labor efficiencies and providing invaluable support for customers.

“I would very much recommend the acoustic monitoring system to other townships,” said Orsini. “I would swear by it as we know the results are real. With the right people in place to interpret the data and track the leaks, we better serve our customers.”

To learn more about acoustic monitoring and how Findlay Township Municipal Authority continues to master proactive leak detection, read the full case study.

Xylem Drinking Water Solutions