In the final part of the leak detection series, we explain why locating small leaks is and important part of a water loss management strategy. To see the first post in the series that outlines the problem of water loss in North America, click here.
Many leak detection programs have a mandate to save the most water and focus on locating and repairing large leaks in favor of small leaks. However, locating small leaks is an important part of leak detection for two main reasons relating to water loss and pipeline condition.
In terms of reducing Non-Revenue Water, small leaks may actually represent the best opportunity for long-term water loss reduction. Leaks on large-diameter metallic pipelines typically form and mature over a period of decades. They tend to grow larger over time, up until a point where the pipe fails and the leaks surface. Locating and repairing a large leak prevents it from leaking for the “tail end” of its life, and from failing catastrophically.
Catching a leak while it is very small does this as well, but also prevents the decades of sustained water loss that would occur as it grows into a large leak. Using technologies that can locate small ‘pinhole’ sized leaks can identify small leaks early on before they grow into larger leaks or lead to pipeline failure.
Locating small leaks also plays a role in determining pipeline condition. A common failure mechanism for large-diameter pipes is known as a “bell split.” This involves a crack forming at the bell end of a pipe joint, which gradually grows over time. Eventually, it can become long enough to weaken the pipe wall to the point of failure, allowing a portion of the pipe bell to break off, or the pipe to split open longitudinally. Locating these cracks early when they are leaking small amounts of water, allows utilities to prevent bell -split failures.
While large leaks are important to locate, using technology that can find small leaks on large-diameter pipelines can prevent the development of large leaks and play a vital role in the safe management of a pipeline network.
To see how South Korean bulk water supplier K-water manages water loss on its large-diameter transmission mains, click here. K-water has been very successful in reducing water loss through the use of advanced inline leak detection, saving millions of gallons of water annually.