With more than a million miles of pipe comprising municipal water systems nationwide, ongoing efforts to ensure the viability of those systems are both daunting and fraught with challenge. And, as the realities of today’s economic climate impact every facet of the water industry, situations that were once written off as simply the cost of providing a service are now being more closely scrutinized. Most notable of these are efforts to quickly identify leaks, assess the degree to which service has been affected and quickly and efficiently resolve the issue. Those efforts are being aided by a combination of traditional (though updated) technologies and a host of new ones, all of which seek to provide timely, cost-effective tools to today’s water professional.
Given the duration for which much of the pipe carrying water today has been in the ground—and the range of materials that make up that pipe—it’s amazing that leaks aren’t far more prevalent than they are. Though polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and prestressed concrete are the materials of choice for most new utility construction, steel and iron—in some cases even wood—pipe still exists and is, quite literally, showing its age. Even modern materials are subject to failure when extraneous causes such as subpar mending of joints, poor manufacturing or improper bedding under the pipe come into play. The end result of any or all these shortcomings can be a leak, which, because of the costs associated with getting water into that pipe and delivering it, can be a drain on revenue. Borne out of simple “listening stick” technology, identifying such leaks has become something of a science, according to Luis Mijares, senior business development manager for ADS Environmental Systems.
“There are a number of ways to identify and isolate a leak, including conducting a district measurement as is widely done in Europe and, to a lesser extent, here,” he says. “However, we’ve grown our business on our ability to provide that service and a host of other equipment-based solutions. Our goal is to do it in the way that makes the best sense for the customer. In light of that, we can go out and do the leak detection for them; we can do it with their crews and train them as we do it; we can even add the price of the equipment to the job so that when we leave, they have a trained crew and the equipment to do the job in the future.”