Resolute Bay Non-Invasively Locates 11 Underground Leaks on HDPE Water Mains Using Advanced Acoustics

Remote, sparsely-inhabited Arctic community turns to ingenious technology to locate leaks on insulated plastic water mains.

Situation

Resolute Bay is an Arctic waterway in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, Canada. Home to approximately 250 people, it is one of the most northerly communities in Canada and is also one of the coldest inhabited places in the world, with an average yearly temperature of −16.4°C (2.5°F). Resolute Bay’s water system was plagued by underground leaks that were responsible for losing approximately 40% of the town’s drinking water. Water loss presented an especially costly problem for the community considering the significant expenses required to treat the water and continuously heat and circulate it through the system to help prevent freezing and to minimize the expansion and contraction of its insulated water mains that are located under permafrost and comprised of high density polyethylene (HDPE).

The government of Nunavut employed numerous leak detection technologies to help locate the leaks but found that none of the methods were effective due to the insulation and plastic composition of the water mains, the system’s lack of service fittings and the inability of most leak detection technologies to differentiate the noise created by the circulating water from noise created by the leaks.

Traditionally, the acoustic detection of leaks on plastic water mains is painstakingly difficult. Unlike metallic pipes, leaks on plastic mains are characterized by relatively low noise frequencies and amplitudes that are almost impossible to accurately detect with typical leak noise correlators.

Desperate for a solution, Nunavut turned to Kudlik Construction Ltd., to help remedy Resolute Bay’s water loss problem.

Action

Kudlik Construction researched numerous leak detection solutions before partnering with Mississauga-based Echologics, a developer of acoustic-based technologies for water loss management, leak detection and pipe condition assessment.

Kudlik’s decision to partner with Echologics was a result of a report from the National Research Council of Canada’s Institution for Research in Construction, which documented the effectiveness of the company’s acoustic-based technologies in providing accurate, non-invasive leak detection, especially in scenarios involving plastic pipe, multiple leaks and excessive background noise.

Traditional acoustic leak detection methods often involve the insertion of hydrophones (water microphones) into a pipe and having the water carry them downstream as they listen for leaks. However, such intrusive technologies would not work in the case of Resolute Bay, as the diameters of pipes in its water system were too small. Echologics’ technology—LeakFinderRT—is non-invasive, as it uses standard pipe appurtenances such as hydrants, valves or direct attachments to the pipe’s outer wall. Surface mounted sensors are placed at two locations along the suspect water line, in most cases valves or hydrants. Sensors can be placed between 120 m and 1,300 m apart. A correlator compares the acoustic signature of the leak with the expected speed of sound in running water; a computer algorithm then calculates the data to accurately pinpoint the location of the leak.