Arlington, Texas, tackles water loss with acoustic technology

The Arlington, Texas, Water Utilities Department is responsible for 1,440 miles of water pipes serving more than 398,112 residents. In the past few years, the city has made significant improvements to limit water loss due to main breaks and unauthorized consumption. The water loss dropped from 12.75 percent in 2014 to 8.25 percent in 2019.

Ric Owens, water conservation specialist at the Arlington Water Department, has been working with Aquarius Spectrum’s leak detection technology for several years.

Using only 20 AQS fixed acoustic sensors in different locations (“Lift & Shift”), Owens has managed to detect several underground hidden leaks — from the initial phases of its water loss program (as small as 0.5 GPM) to much bigger leaks.

In May 2020 the utility installed few of Aquarius’ fixed acoustic sensors. A short time after the installation, the system indicated a point of interest (POI) that was accurately presented on the utility’s GIS map. In addition to the AQS-SYS automatic investigation of POIs, Arlington’s leak detection team downloaded the sound files recorded by the sensors and listened to them to verify the POI was not a “false positive.” Then, the team went out to the site and located the leak physically at roughly 4-5 ft from the tee on a 4-in. PVC pipe.

One of the unique features of this particular detection was that the Aquarius’ accelerometers sensors were installed on metal piping while the leak was found on a PVC pipe. The system showed a suspected leak at about 4-ft distance from the exact location where it was located. This allowed the local staff to locate it in a short and fast process and without the need to carry out unnecessary excavations.

The leak found was medium-sized 5 GPM (see right). If the leak would have continued to develop and reach the surface, it is estimated that it would have produced a loss of about 2.6 million gallons, costing the utility $3,942. Early locating of the leak and its repair while underground prevented environmental damage and much higher repair costs that would have been needed due to severe defect in the pipe and especially when it comes to burst.

Satisfied with the system, Owens said, “These sensors pick up a 0.5 GPM leak at the distances we have on these normal couplings at several hundred feet apart. That is incredible. I have found 15-20 private leaks insides houses from toilets and others. In most of those cases the meter didn’t pick up the flow. So far, we have not had an issue that I gave to our crew from this system that wasn’t correct within 6 ft.”

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