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Printer Friendly VersionSelected Information - Proposed Research

CP465  Fibre optics for trunk mains leak detection and location Leak Detection
Project Appreciation and Objectives

Trunk mains are essential for the water supply of large numbers of customers. Beyond this basic importance, some trunk mains are classed as critical where a significant burst could cause very costly damage and/or loss of life, such as where mains run close to or beneath motorways or railways or supply hospitals or schools

Many trunk mains monitoring protocols are based on periodic surveys; for example the use of free swimming or tethered hydrophones; depending on the interval between surveys significant deterioration and water loss might occur before deterioration is detected. Continuous monitoring therefore has significant advantages. Fibre optics have, since the 1990s, been known to function as distributed hydrophones. Recent advances, mostly in the oil sector, have improved spatial resolution and sensitivity such that it could be good enough for a permanent leak detection system on pressurised pipes. The fibre optic cable may also be used for communications, either directly benefiting the water company or generating revenue from a third party.

This project will assess this opportunity by investigating:

  • How this technology compares with other systems and technologies.
  • The economics and practicalities of installing, and leaving, fibre optic cables in water mains.
  • The accuracy and costs of light signal generation and processing equipment for leak detection.
  • How and where companies might install fibre optic cables for greatest benefit.

Benefits to Clients

  • Ability to make informed decisions on installing and investing in emerging technologies at low risk.
  • Targeted investment to maximise the direct and indirect benefits from use of fibre optics in water mains.

Work Programme

  1. Evuation of fibre optics and comparison of accuracy and effectiveness with other techniques.
  2. Technical feasibility assessment of installation, operating valves, cable materials; pipeline maintenance, etc.
  3. Economic investigation of operating and installation costs and payback from rental of optic fibre bandwidth.
  4. Cost-effective comparison of the differing techniques with reporting of the results and recommendations.

Project Output

  • A report containing detailed evaluation of the techniques, with a focus on the application of fibre optics.
  • Cost-effective analysis with recommendations for where companies could best invest.

Related WRc Work

  • WRc developed the Sahara trunk mains leakage service and has unrivalled knowledge and understanding of trunk mains leakage in the UK.
  • Development of protocols for the installation of fibre optics in water mains, and their commercial exploitation through a JV established in 2001.
  • Investigations and evaluation of the deployment of fibre optics in sewers (1995)
WRc's Portfolio Programme
Summary of the £1.5 million per annum research programme

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