Drinking water systems degrade over time, with the useful life of the pipe and component parts often lasting for decades. Of course, age is only part of the equation. The deterioration of any particular pipeline depends on a multitude of factors, including pipe material and class. To complicate matters, factors such as soil environment, chemical properties of the water, climate changes, and operational particulars can all contribute to weakened pipes.
All that said, when a suspected leak develops in a pressured main after only five years in operation, it’s important to locate and repair the leak and determine what operational, environmental or installation factors led to the failure.
That was the situation faced by Intermunicipal Service Oeiras and Amadora, a water management company responsible for the distribution of drinking water for the municipalities of Amadora and Oeiras in the Lisbon region of Portugal. SIMAS Oeiras e Amadora distributes water to more than 350,000 customers who have come to rely on the public company for their water services.
The F. Passarinhos-Atalaia duct is a pressurized pipeline that supplies water to one of eight reservoirs operated by SIMAS Oeiras e Amadora in the municipality of Amadora. Installed in 2007, the large 600 mm (24-inch) transmission main, made from ductile iron material, delivers drinking water to approximately 31 percent of Amadora’s residents, making it a critical part of the municipality’s buried infrastructure.
Pressure drop indicated possibility of critical leak
In 2012, SIMAS Oeiras e Amadora detected a noticeable pressure drop in the system, indicating the possibility of a critical leak, the predecessor of a potential rupture that could negatively impact the environment and significantly disrupt day-to-day life in the community.
Since 2007 utilities all over the world have been using Pure’s SmartBall pipeline inspection technology to save millions of dollars in water loss and prevented water main breaks.
SmartBall tool launched without disrupting service
Pure’s patented SmartBall tool is an aluminum-core, foam-shell ball packed with several different sensors that can be launched into a water main without any disruption to client service.
Unlike traditional external listening tools that have limited success on large diameter pipes, SmartBall is the industry’s only free-flowing multi-sensor technology that provides the highest degree of accuracy, since as the ball rolls, it can inspect every inch of a water main to detect potential problems such as leaks and gas pockets. Its highly sensitive acoustic sensors can locate ‘pinhole’ leaks and gas pockets within a location accuracy of 1.8 meters.
Assess assets from inside the pipe rather than from external clues
Leak detection is a necessary step to reduce water loss and prevent major water main breaks. The benefits of leak detection are obvious in increased revenues, lower risk of contamination, lower liability due to a reduction of main breaks, and increased public trust.
Although the SmartBall tool detected just one leak, the inspection gave SIMAS Oeiras e Amadora the capacity to assess assets from inside the pipe rather than drawing conclusions from indirect, external clues. If leaks are discovered early, operators can take necessary action to makes repairs before they become a major problem.
This process allows progressive operators like SIMAS Oeiras e Amadora to develop a sustainable long-term strategy for managing their critical buried assets.