SA Water’s smart network technology and expertise is being utilised by national universities and water utilities in an industry-led project tackling the global challenge of predicting leaks and breaks in large-scale water networks.

A vital component of SA Water’s pioneering smart network, 40 acoustic sensors were recently deployed by the utility’s specialist technicians within Sydney Water’s CBD water main network, supporting a specific stream of the project through the provision of advanced leak detection technology and data analytics.

Since their implementation in July 2017, SA Water’s sensors have helped detect around half of all water main leaks and breaks in the Adelaide CBD, enabling them to be proactively repaired – minimising the interruption to customers and commuters, while reducing operational costs.

SA Water’s sensors – which detect high-pitched frequencies generated by water escaping a pipe – will monitor an area of around 13km in the Sydney CBD for potential leaks and breaks for a trial period before returning to South Australia’s water mains, with the data captured and transmitted daily to SA Water’s analytics platform for analysis and investigation.

“Deploying our sensors throughout Sydney’s CBD water network provides the chance to increase the range of data we have to baseline acoustic patterns against, and further fine tune the algorithms we have developed to monitor the data gathered from our Adelaide CBD network,” SA Water General Manager of Asset Operations and Delivery, Mark Gobbie, said.

“By combining technology, innovation and capital investment, we’re demonstrating a positive impact on our water network’s performance and forging a new path for asset management.”

Sydney Water Customer Hub Manager, Darren Cash, said Sydney Water was pleased to partner with SA Water and harness its knowledge and expertise.

“Our water industry is incredibly collaborative – we’re all in it to enhance the lives of our customers and communities, and by sharing our capabilities, we can drive continual improvement,” Mr Cash said.

“Water main leaks and breaks are not unique to any state or utility. Maintaining an underground network presents operational challenges which are compounded by environmental factors such as rainfall and soil conditions, and it’s difficult to predict when and where a fault might occur.

“In Sydney’s current drought, the dry soil is exacerbating water main breaks, so it’s increasingly important we investigate and apply innovative solutions to reduce their impact.”

Mr Gobbie said ongoing interest from peers and numerous industry accolades affirmed SA Water’s revolutionary application of technology.

“We are the first water utility in the world to implement a range of smart sensors at scale in a defined geographical area, and it is important that we share the knowledge we have built with the wider industry as well as continuing to improve our own network management practices,” Mr Gobbie said.

“We have formed an excellent relationship with Sydney Water over the years, and the opportunity to pass on our experience and explore other emerging areas of leak detection technology will advance our knowledge and ensure Australia’s water industry remains at the forefront.”

As part of the $3 million project, which is coordinated by a NSW government initiative, the NSW Smart Sensing Network, several leading research universities and water utilities will lead a series of five sub-projects focused on the applications of smart sensing technology to reduce pipe leaks and breaks.

Sydney Water is the project’s major funding contributor, with further contributions coming from the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Newcastle, Water NSW, Melbourne Water and SA Water.

The wider project will also explore the application of emerging breakthroughs in quantum science to search for underground pipe leaks, while multi-modal information and data analytics will aim to create predictive models for pipe failure by considering a range of attributes such as asset material, age and landscape topography.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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