The average leak in a municipal water system can flow for up to 20 years. When undetected, these leaks can be the source of significant service disruptions and costly repairs—in fact, there are more than 700 water main breaks per day in North America, some posing major threats to health and safety in cities. The World Bank estimates the total cost of “lost” (or non-revenue) water to utilities is U.S. $14 billion per year. The simple conclusion? Reducing water loss can save millions for municipalities and mitigate substantial risk.
With support from parent company Mueller Co., Toronto-based Echologics, a global leader in non-invasive acoustic water main leak detection and pipeline assessment technologies, is making a critical investment in addressing the growing challenge of failing buried infrastructure. In September 2015, the company opened a three-acre R&D facility in Walkerton, Ontario that will allow its innovators to test its latest “smart” solutions, showcase capabilities for visiting utilities, and provide operators with hands-on training experiences.
“When municipalities have data that supports their asset management plans and optimizes maintenance schedules, they can identify priorities and prevent catastrophes,” says Marc Bracken, Echologics’ Vice President and General Manager. “With this flexible site, we can push or advance our existing technologies further and test and demonstrate our new ideas.”
The completely unique controlled innovation site gives Echologics researchers the ability to create, maintain and replicate pipeline conditions and simulate leak failures. The site replicates a fully operational, utility-grade distribution system with more than 2,000 feet of buried plastic and metallic pipe, ranging in diameter from 6 to 18 inches. In the centre of the grid, an excavated pit exposes a portion of the network so researchers and field crews can easily access pipelines to simulate leak scenarios or perform condition assessment measurements on a variety of pipe sizes and materials.
The company’s core technology uses a proprietary acoustic-based leak detection system and comprehensive database, which has enabled municipalities across North America, Europe, South Africa, Singapore and Australia to better understand their water infrastructure, reduce costs, and prioritize capital spending without breaking ground or disrupting service.
Bracken says the company has embraced the concept of the “Internet of Things”, creating a network of physical objects that capture and exchange data based on international standards. By outfitting fire hydrant caps with EchoShore™—an advanced transmission main monitoring system—Echologics creates a networked leak detection system that collects data and sends it to the cloud daily. Not only does the system alert utilities when it senses leaks, it also tracks the severity of these leaks to help utilities mitigate catastrophic failures.
“In combination with knowledge we’ve gained from valuable partnerships with municipal utilities, this facility will help us to give cities access to the best possible data for making the most educated decisions about their networks,” says Bracken.
To view an animation about the Innovation Site, click here.