Protecting against water loss

Pedro Barbosa, product owner at Fotech, a bp Launchpad company, looks at the current threats to water pipelines and explores how advanced distributed acoustic sensing technology is supporting operators to monitor and maintain their networks better.

Water is a precious resource, yet it is lost worldwide on a vast scale. According to the World Bank, non-revenue water loss costs an estimated US$15 billion per year. There is enormous pressure for water operators to minimise leakage and reduce risk across their networks while simultaneously making cost savings. Minimising water loss can ultimately be achieved through effective monitoring and maintaining the integrity of the water pipeline networks.

Current threats to pipelines
Water loss is a major problem worldwide. For example, Skopje, Croatia, lost 22% of its water in 2020. There are a few reasons that typically cause loss – ageing pipelines are more susceptible to failure, and if made from steel, could experience corrosion that results in leaks; mechanical damage can cause ruptures or water can be stolen by being siphoned off.

Theft is also a significant threat to pipelines. Indeed, an Australian study revealed that up to half of the world’s water supply is stolen annually. It is particularly prevalent in agricultural settings where crops need constant irrigation.

Challenge with existing monitoring technologies
Internal-based monitoring systems, which infer the presence of a leak, have traditionally been used to check for leaks. These systems – such as mass balance and real-time transient modelling (RTTM) – use computational monitoring (CPM) to calculate different operational conditions. However, they tend to have low sensitivity to small leaks and long detectability times. As a result, leaks are often missed or alarms are only raised after large quantities of water have already been lost.

In contrast, external-based systems, such as fibre optic sensing, take direct measurements of different response dynamics associated with the leak, such as the noise produced by the leak. This provides a quicker detection of smaller amounts of water leakage.

The full article is available on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia Jan/Feb 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.