West Virginia American Water Adopts Monitoring Technologies to Reduce Water Loss
Installing a new fixed leak detection platform that finds and monitors leaks, unable to be detected by conventional approaches - avoiding water loss and costly pipe failures for an American Water distribution system.
- Reduction of non-revenue water
- Prioritizing pipe repair and crew schedules by leak monitoring.
- Minimizing the risks of catastrophic failures by early detection of leaks.
- Reduction of false-positive leak signals.
- Improve the safety of field personnel by eliminating the need for traffic controls during current leak investigations.
To ensure a high level of customer service, early detection of water main leaks is vital for a distribution system. Early leak detection enables water utilities to minimize water loss, extend asset life, schedule and prioritize repairs based on most critical needs.
West Virginia American Water is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, and serves more than 580,000 people, supplying high-quality water service to 288 communities. In Charleston, the water utility was facing a significant challenge in reducing water loss from an aging water distribution system composed of cast iron and ductile iron pipe. The utility required a more efficient and proactive approach to identify leaks and schedule repairs.
We had been collaborating with American Water as part of a government-sponsored technology development program to create an automated acoustic monitoring system capable of assessing the water distribution characteristics and detecting noise signatures of potential water leaks and system problems. In the winter of 2014, we began to install over almost 400 EchoShore®‑DX leak monitoring nodes in fire hydrants across a 5 square mile section of the Charleston water distribution system. The system proved its value almost immediately.
At the heart of the EchoShore®-DX platform is an intelligent node that is embedded into a standard fire hydrant cap. The node is pre-assembled and consists of an acoustic sensor, analysis software, network connection hardware, batteries, and an antenna. The nodes communicate with a central data collection hub – multiple data collection hubs were installed in Charleston with an ability to easily expand the system in future phases. When an acoustical anomaly is identified, the node sends a data file for further analysis to a central computer. The computer software automatically requests additional correlation data from surrounding nodes and automatically performs multiple correlation combinations to accurately target the location of a leak or acoustic anomaly. The local American Water non-revenue water loss team views daily correlation results using an operator-friendly software interface.
West Virginia American Water credited the EchoShore®-DX System with reducing water loss by 2.3 MGD in the distribution system since it was activated.
The EchoShore®-DX platform can be installed in virtually any make / model of fire hydrant and the acoustic sensors are proven to be accurate on correlating leaks on a variety of pipe materials and diameters. The platform performs a system-wide leak detection correlation when first activated. By identifying and repairing existing leaks, the system creates an accurate and known acoustical baseline for the monitoring zone. This results in an exceptionally high degree of leak detection accuracy. When considering deployment of a fixed leak detection technology, and often an overlooked advantage is limiting or reducing “false positives” together with the frustrations, cost, and wasted time associated with needlessly excavating and inspecting dry holes.
“There are all kinds of underground noises caused by everything from trucks rolling overhead to nearby electric transformers and other vibrating machinery that create signals that can confuse leak detection systems,” said David Hughes, Manager of Water Research for American Water. “Many of these early leak detection systems we used before the EchoShore®-DX platform caused us to spend a lot of time looking for suspected leaks that, in fact, were not leaks at all.”
Since it was activated in February of 2015, West Virginia American Water credited the EchoShore®-DX system with reducing water loss by 2.3 MGD in the distribution system. In the first month of operation, 11 leaks were identified and repaired, and 45 additional leaks were successfully identified in the following five months of operation – 90% of which had not surfaced prior to repairs. Another 2 MGD of water loss was recovered from a 36" PCCP main leak that was identified by the acoustic nodes through ground vibrations.
“We think of it as ‘SCADA beyond the treatment plant fence’,” said Marc Bracken, Echologics® VP and General Manager. “Traditional SCADA monitoring capabilities within a treatment plant almost disappear as soon as the water leaves the plant, leaving most utilities operating blind with little to no information about the water moving through their distribution system. The EchoShore®‑DX platform enables a utility to have unprecedented information to better manage pipeline leaks and protect an entire water distribution system from beginning to end.”