Every drop of water lost is a missed opportunity. Each drop lost could have been put to good use, quenching our thirst, irrigating crops or facilitating one of the everyday tasks we take for granted.

Given the water supply is under increasing pressure and water companies face more stringent leakage targets, effective leak management is crucial. The challenges posed by an ageing infrastructure, changing environmental factors and increased demand add to the complexity. Finding an effective method of detecting and managing leaks is paramount.

Traditionally, the water industry has taken a reactive ‘find and fix’ approach to managing leaks and the broader water network. The problem with that is as quickly as leaks are found, more are forming.

Condition assessments offer an alternative, proactive approach to leak and network management, comprising of a physical inspection of a pipe. This means water companies can make informed decisions about their maintenance and replacement work.

Some assessment approaches rely on excavating and examining a small section of pipe. This data is then extrapolated to present the overall condition of the pipeline. However, these findings are often unrepresentative of the true asset condition.

Echologics® ePulse® technology from Mueller Water Products takes a different approach, employing acoustics to establish the actual condition of a pipe. Completely non-invasive, ePulse condition assessments are completed above ground, using valves or fire hydrants as contact points, so there’s no need to dig up the road. The pipe continues operating; water services are uninterrupted and neither customers or road users are inconvenienced.

A sound wave is introduced into the pipeline, travelling along the pipe between two acoustic sensors. The time the sound wave takes to travel between the sensors is measured, with the sound velocity indicating the condition of the pipe wall. How so?

As the sound wave travels, the water molecules expand against the pipe, creating a microscopic flex on the pipe wall — the greater the flex, the weaker the pipe. Thereby measuring the actual structural integrity of the pipe wall and accurately reflecting the pipe’s overall condition.

These measurements are considered in the context of data that shows how the pipe’s condition has changed over time, taking into account its original thickness, age, dimensions, material, loadings and soil corrosiveness.

Together, the intelligence provides actionable data that can be used to forecast asset failure, allowing preventative action to be taken and enabling better network management. ePulse condition assessment technology can be applied to both specific sections of pipe or to assess an entire water network.

What marks ePulse technology out from its competitors is that leaks can be detected simultaneously with the condition assessment, meaning the cost of the assessment can be offset by the savings inherent in reducing leakage. Leaks can be identified earlier and fixed more quickly.

Utilising the LeakFinderST™, an advanced leak noise correlator technology jointly developed by Severn Trent Water and Echologics, a full leak detection sweep of an entire network is possible alongside collecting data for condition assessment, meaning leakage can be directly and significantly reduced.

Such is the high regard in which this technology is held; LeakFinderST won both the Water Industry Achievement Awards’ Most Innovative New Technology of the Year and the overall Outstanding Innovation 2014 award, upon its launch. Since then, it has gone on to be utilised in the industry worldwide.

Anglian Water chose Echologics’ ePulse technology to determine if a main in an environmental protection area needed rehabilitation. As Fionn Boyle, Optimisation Project Engineer for Anglian Water explains, “Using ePulse technology, we were able to spend on the assessment and still have a business case that showed a benefit, as well as ensuring we had a positive environmental impact.”

“As a result of the acoustic assessment performed by ePulse, Anglian Water was able to make the most appropriate investment decision,” explains Echologics Area Sales Manager Joseph Finn from Mueller Water Products. “This led to significant cost savings, along with the added benefits of reducing its environmental impact, carbon footprint and impact on local customers.”

In short, carrying out leak detection simultaneously with condition assessment means the water network can operate more effectively for the benefit of customers, water companies and the environment.