Leaks and Bursts – An Alternative to Running to Stand Still, By Shonnie Cline – Business Manager, North America

As water systems age, the risk of pipeline failure increases. Short of the complete replacement of old and deteriorating pipes, which is an economic impossibility for most water utilities, water managers are left to figure out ways of extending the life of their buried assets and reducing the number of expensive and disruptive bursts and leaks.

In reality, one of the leading causes of pipe failures is due to pressure transients, also known as water hammer, that send explosive pressure waves throughout the entire network.   Damaging transients can be caused by a number of operating factors including improperly working valves and pumps that start and stop too quickly.  In many cases operators may be completely unaware that there are problems in the system until it is too late and a burst has occurred.  Even then, pin pointing the cause of the transient can be virtually impossible without high resolution background information that will aid in locating the source of the problem.

Most utilities have pressure loggers throughout the system that provide baseline pressure information. Most loggers however, only monitor pressure at a rate of once every few minutes and rarely provide the detail needed to detect pressure transients that can move across the network at 3100 feet per second.

Recognizing the need to identify transients as they happen, Syrinix researchers developed TransientMinder, an intelligent pipeline monitoring device, that not only provides the sensitivity needed to capture and trace transients as they happen, but also analyzes information and sends real-time notification to water operators. With such precise information, viewable from any web-enabled device, transients can be correlated to activities including valves opening and closing, pumps starting and stopping, field activities and major user operations.

Utilizing TransientMinder, utility managers are able to make operational changes that cannot just result in significant improvements in pipeline asset performance but create savings worth more than the cost of monitoring and any remedial work.   For instance Anglian Water, which is the largest water utility in England and Wales by geographic area, installed TransientMinder in a District Metered Area (DMA) where a higher than normal pipe failures had occurred.  After monitoring the area using the TransientMinder system in various locations, operators were able to identify that there were frequent damaging transients caused by a poorly functioning inlet valve.

After confirming that an inlet valve was causing serious network issues, using data from the TransientMinder system, Anglian Water was confidently able to make the decision to replace the valve which ultimately resulted in a 45% reduction in main bursts and a 59% reduction in leaks.

Having a clearer picture of how pumps, valves and pipeline systems are operating allows utilities to be proactive in managing their assets to save money, save water and prevent system interruptions.  self