How Medicine Hat is keeping its aging water infrastructure leak free

Fri, 2019-05-17 07:43 -- SCC Partner

In many cities, one of the biggest sources of water waste is the city’s own water infrastructure. Aging infrastructure is often leaky infrastructure — an especially expensive problem since the water that’s lost is water that the city has already paid to treat.

Below, learn how the Canadian city of Medicine Hat is using advanced monitoring to detect leaks before they become serious issues. — Kevin Ebi

By Alain, Lalonde, Echologics Regional Manager for Mueller Water Products

The Canadian city of Medicine Hat, Alberta enjoys an ample aboveground water supply drawn from the South Saskatchewan River.  However, water leaks and failures of aging asbestos- cement,  cast  iron  and ductile iron pipes compelled the city to seek an automated leak detection monitoring solution that would help cut water loss,  avoid potential  damage caused by pipe failures and reduce unnecessary pipeline replacement costs.

Medicine Hat’s Environmental Utilities department tried using portable leak detection equipment but discovered this required a number of dedicated field staff — and an element of luck.  Consequently, they only used the equipment to confirm they were digging in the right spot when a pipe ruptured. The Utility wanted to move from reactive leak detection to a proactive solution that would be reliable, noninvasive and offer permanent live monitoring.

They chose Echologics EchoShore-DX, an advanced permanent leak-monitoring platform that uses acoustic sensors and proprietary processing algorithms to detect and pinpoint the source of faint noises emitted by pipeline leaks. Battery-powered monitoring “nodes” are built into fire hydrant pumper nozzle caps.  The acoustic nodes are linked using a wireless network that allows rapid deployment of the platform and a quick search for leaks upon system activation.  Identifying and repairing existing leaks creates a highly accurate and reliable “acoustical baseline” for each monitoring zone that results in exceptionally high detection accuracy of any subsequent leaks that may develop in the future.

Medicine Hat opted for Echologics managed services from Mueller Water Products to support the system’s deployment and operation. The Echologics Leak Operations Center (LOC) has a specialized team of pipeline leak-detection professionals that actively monitor leak detection data and notify utility staff in the event of a probable leak on the network.

Supported by the LOC managed services, Medicine Hat’s water utility was alerted about potential pipeline leaks almost immediately after their new leak monitoring system became operational.  Monitoring 150 smart nodes, Echologics technicians detected three separate locations identified with acoustic signatures consistent with pipeline leaks.

Two of the detected POI’s identified as potential leaks were confirmed with on-site inspections, but the third acoustic POI turned out to be an anomaly that demonstrated the sensitivity and accuracy of the acoustic technology. Investigating field technicians discovered the POI was actually a pressure zone boundary valve that was partially open instead of firmly closed, causing a pressure leak into a lower pressure zone that had been hidden for months. Closing the valve eliminated pressure zone leak, decreased pumping effort and energy waste, and increased hydraulic integrity of the overall system.

Medicine Hat’s experience with the EchoShore-DX technology has resulted in plans to expand the city’s current leak detection coverage to include their entire metallic and asbestos cement water distribution pipe assets over the next three years.