Connellsville, located along the steep Youghiogheny River Valley in Southwestern Pennsylvania, was founded in 1806, and by the late 1800s, became a leading region of coal extraction. The water distribution system was constructed in1880. Other infrastructure was built in the region to transport the coal, with trains connecting to other towns and streetcars for local travel.
With steady growth about a century ago, American Water constructed water pipes to transport water throughout the city and surrounding municipalities. The cast iron and galvanized steel pipes worked well for many years. Today, about 40 of 57 miles of main pipes are a century old. As a result, the system's water pipes are approaching the end of their useful life. In recent years, many leaks have been discovered, driving up costs for the city. American Water identified non-revenue water consisting of blow-off flow and leaks in excess of 25 percent of the average daily flow.
The Connellsville system is operated by Pennsylvania American Water, a subsidiary of American Water, headquartered in New Jersey. American Water contacted several leak detection firms in hopes of finding a better way to detect leaks than the conventional leak surveys. The method of sending people out in the middle of the night to place a listening device at points of access along the water system was judged as a costly, inefficient process. Leaks do not stop until the next leak survey—they occur throughout the year. And in Connellsville, leaks can take a long time to surface.