Acoustic Engineering

United Water New Jersey (UWNJ), a subsidiary of United Water and one of the leading water and wastewater service providers in the United States, provides water services to more than 800,000 people throughout Bergen and Hudson counties and surrounding areas. Its system contains more than 2,100 miles of water main that delivered (distributed) approximately 38.5 billion gallons of water in 2009 alone.

The Problem?

Like many utilities, UWNJ was concerned about being able to identify transmission and distribution of water main leaks. However, its field crews, as well as the outside contractor, were having difficulty accurately detecting and locating leaks in larger diameter water mains and sections of pipe that did not have available accessories. In an effort to improve water conservation and reduce non-revenue water, UWNJ began evaluating leak detection services with the ability to accurately isolate leaks on large diameter mains.

UWNJ selected Echologics, based in Mississauga, Ontario. Echologics is a leading developer of acoustic-based technologies for water loss management, leak detection and pipe condition assessment for a transmission main leak detection pilot survey. The goal was to assess approximately five miles of water mains, composed primarily of reinforced concrete pipe (RCP), pre-stressed cylinder concrete (PCCP), and cast-iron pipe (CIP).

Echologics is a subsidiary of Mueller Water Products, Inc., a leading North American manufacturer and marketer of products and services that are used in the transmission and distribution of safe, clean drinking water and in water treatment facilities. Echologics works with municipalities across North America and in Europe, South Africa, Singapore and Australia to isolate ?silent? leaks that other technologies fail to find.

With proprietary sensor and signal conditioning technologies, the Echologics solution works on all pipes regardless of diameter, geometry, material, etc. Data collection is non-invasive, using standard pipe appurtenances such as hydrants, valves or direct attachments to the pipe?s outer wall. The system also has the ability to assess the structural condition of transmission mains, distribution pipelines and force mains, including a unique solution for asbestos cement pipe.

The Solution and Results

For the pilot survey, Echologics used acoustic sensors specifically developed for detecting leaks in large diameter mains, including sections of pipe where standard appurtenances were not available. The Echologics system discovered a major leak on a 42-in. CIP water main, which had gone undetected as the leak was located in a section of pipe that ran beneath a river within the pilot test area.

Echologics technology substantially reduces both electronic ?white? noise as well as ambient background noise often created by running water or traffic. Therefore, it was able to detect and accurately pinpoint the sub-river leak, which was responsible for losing an estimated 100,000 gallons of treated water per day, without breaking ground or disrupting service. The leak noise was originally identified as an acoustic ?point of interest? several thousand feet upstream of the actual leak location. As a result of Echologics? transmission main leak detection service, UWNJ was able to quickly repair the leak avoiding potential failure. Eliminating the leak provided immediate savings due to the significant marginal cost of non-revenue water.

?Until we began working with Echologics, finding leaks on large mains was a difficult and costly process,? said Antonio Vicente, operations engineer for United Water. ?The company?s advanced system as well as its technicians? expertise helped us to quickly locate a significant leak. The outcome of this project is a testament to the value of UWNJ?s use of advanced services and technology and demonstrates our commitment to optimizing service for both customers and the environment.?

Following the successful pilot survey, Echologics secured a three year master services agreement with United Water in October 2011. The agreement enables United Water, which supplies water and wastewater services to approximately seven million people in the continental United States, to readily utilize Echologics leak detection and condition assessment services for any of its operating divisions.?

?Leaks and aging water pipes present significant challenges to water service providers around the world,? Vicente said. ?By partnering with Echologics, United Water can take a proactive, efficient approach to mitigating water leaks and assessing the structural condition of pipes, before service is compromised. Using advanced technology to address these items head-on is critical for United Water to continue fulfilling its primary objective, which is to provide its customers with the highest quality drinking water. Also, at United Water, the environment is at the heart of our business, and locating and repairing leaks conforms to our commitment to environmental excellence.?

Marc Bracken is vice president and general manager of the Mississauga, Ontario-based Echologics, a leading developer and provider of acoustic-based technologies for water loss management, leak detection and pipe condition assessment. He has more than 18 years of experience in acoustical and vibration engineering.

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