Stanford University scientists have proposed a new way for locating water leaks plaguing underground city pipes.
According to the scientists, the improvement – which is actually a reworking of the water hammer test – could help save time, money and billions of gallons of water.
Study author and Stanford Earth professor Daniel Tartakovsky contends that an estimated 20 to 50 percent of water is lost to leaks in North America’s supply system.
“People talk about reducing the time you take showers, but if you think about 50 percent of water flowing through the system being lost, it’s another magnitude,” says Tartakovsky.
Tartakovsky and UC San Diego’s Abdulrahman Alawadhi have now built upon the ‘water hammer test’ to swiftly and accurately interpret data from pressure sensors used for detecting leaks.
The new method – which basically targets water leaks in underground transmission mains – could also be applied to other industries that use pressure sensors for leak detection, such as in undersea oil and natural gas transmission networks.
The current method for detecting leaks is computationally expensive. It involves suddenly shutting off flow through a pipe and using sensors to gather data about how the resulting shock wave, or ‘water hammer’ propagates.
The new method on the other hand assimilate this data into a mathematical model to narrow down the location of a leak: “You could do it in real time on a laptop,” notes Tartakovsky.
For example, if you wanted to find a leak in a football field-length pipe, you could dig up the whole field until you hit wet soil, or you could use the new method to constrain the location of the leak to a 10-meter section of the pipe.
“In cities, it’s harder because pipes are under buildings and you have to break asphalt and things like that, so the more accurate your prediction of the location, the better,” contends Tartakovsky.
Image and content: HiddenCatch-iStock/Stanford Earth