Sydneysiders seek SA Water’s smart sensor success

11 February 2020

SA Water’s world-leading smart network technology and expertise is playing a key role in a national university and water industry collaboration being implemented in Sydney to tackle the global challenge of predicting leaks and breaks in large-scaled water networks.

Combining knowledge and resources, SA Water is working together with universities and water utilities from across the country to explore areas of emerging technology to enhance predictive capabilities, which could be applied in South Australia to reduce the potential impact of pipe failures on the utility’s customers.

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.

Sydney Water Customer Hub Manager Darren Cash said they were pleased to partner with SA Water and harness their 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,” Darren 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.

“We’ve followed SA Water’s journey with a strong interest, and they are now leading the way through their unique integration of digital and smart technology, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to seek guidance from the team in South Australia.

“SA Water should be applauded for their ground-breaking initiative and we’re excited to learn from their success and enhance our asset management strategies for the benefit of our customers.”

The acoustic sensors – which listen to the ‘music’ of the network and detect high-pitched frequencies generated by water escaping a pipe – will monitor an area of around 13 kilometres in the busy Sydney CBD.

As part of the $3 million project, which is coordinated by a New South Wales State Government initiative, the NSW Smart Sensing Network, several leading research universities and water utilities will lead a series of five  sub-projects focused on 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.

SA Water General Manager of Asset Operations and Delivery Mark Gobbie said ongoing interest from peers and numerous industry accolades affirmed the corporation’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,” Mark said.

“Our team has been embedding and maturing the technology in our water network to deliver better outcomes for our customers, and our thirst for innovation has seen it not only expand to other areas of South Australia, but also successfully adapted to our sewer network.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

SA Water’s acoustic sensors will monitor Sydney Water’s CBD water network 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.

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.




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