Engineers solve leaky water pipes problem

Aug 06, 2012

Leaky pipes are a common problem for the water industry: according to UK regulator, Ofwat, between 20 and 40 per cent of the UK's total water supply can be lost through damaged pipes. Developing more accurate ways of finding leaks would enable water companies to save revenue and reduce their environmental impact.

The system invented at Sheffield tests pipes by transmitting a pressure wave along them that sends back a signal if it passes any unexpected features, such as a leak or a crack in the pipe's surface.

The pressure wave is generated by a valve fitted to an ordinary water hydrant, which is opened and closed rapidly. The wave sends back a reflection, or a signal, if it encounters any anomalous features in the pipe. The strength of that signal can then be analysed to determine the location and the size of the leak.

Originally created by a team led by Professor Stephen Beck in the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, the invention was developed into a in partnership with colleagues in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, and UK water company, Yorkshire Water.

The device has now been trialled at Yorkshire Water's field operators training site in Bradford, UK and results show that it offers a reliable and accurate method of leak testing. Leaks in cast iron pipes were located accurately to within one metre, while leaks in were located even more precisely, to within 20cm. The results of the trial are published today (6 August 2012) in a paper entitled, 'On site leak location in a pipe network by cepstrum analysis of pressure transients', in the Journal - American Water Works Association.

Existing leak detection techniques rely on acoustic sensing with microphones commonly used to identify noise generated by pressurised water escaping from the pipe. This method, however, is time consuming and prone to errors: the use of plastic pipes, for example, means that the sound can fall away quickly, making detection very difficult.

In contrast the device invented by the Sheffield team uses a series of calculations based on the size of the pipe, the speed of the , and the distance it has to travel. The device can be calibrated to get the most accurate results and all the data is analysed on site, delivering immediate results that can be prioritised for action.

Dr James Shucksmith, in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield, who led the trial, says: "We are very excited by the results we've achieved so far: we are able to identify the location of leaks much more accurately and rapidly than existing systems are able to, meaning water companies will be able to save both time and money in carrying out repairs.

"The system has delivered some very promising results at Yorkshire Water. We hope now to find an industrial partner to develop the device to the point where it can be manufactured commercially"

Dr Allyson Seth, Networks Analytics Manager at Yorkshire Water comments: "Driving down leakage on our 31,000km network of pipes is a high priority for us.

"Over the last 12 months alone, we've targeted leakage reduction and as a result we're currently recording our lowest ever levels of leakage.

"But we want to do more, which is why, in addition to the existing technologies we use, we're looking at new ways to help us to reduce leakage.

"Our work with engineers at the University of Sheffield is the latest example of this, and we look forward to working with them going forward to build on what has been achieved so far."

Explore further: Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

More information: On site leak location in a pipe network by cepstrum analysis of pressure transients, J.D Shucksmith, J.B.Boxall, W.J.Staszewski, A.Seth and S.B.M.Beck, Journal - American Water Works Association www.awwa.org/files/secure/index.cfm?FileID=212310

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Drinking water from plastic pipes - is it harmful?

Nov 08, 2011

Pipe-in-pipe systems are now commonly used to distribute water in many homes. The inner pipe for drinking water is made of a plastic called cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). Are these pipes harmful to health and do they affect ...

Tag tech for buried pipes spins out

Jul 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new Oxford University spin-out company, Oxford Electromagnetic Solutions Limited (OxEmS), has been set up to commercialise technology to locate and identify buried plastic pipes.

No mere pipe dream

Feb 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- UCI engineers are working on robotic technology to rehabilitate the nation's aging water infrastructure.

Lead leaching and faucet corrosion in PVC home plumbing

Jun 02, 2008

Scientists in Virginia are reporting that home plumbing systems constructed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pipes may be more susceptible to leaching of lead and copper into drinking water than other ...

Recommended for you

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

Apr 18, 2014

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...