Research news: Dr N Metje grant award

Posted on Monday 11th March 2013

Congratulations to Dr N Metje who won £240,686 from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council for the project Smart Leak Detection Pipes.

This project will develop an easy to install leak detection system for existing and new water pipes. Based on self-contained sensor nodes located on the outside of the pipe the system will detect changes in pressure and vibration to indicate the formation of leaks and their location as they occur. The innovative features of the system include the fact that internal conditions are monitored from the outside of the pipe using sensors not used before due to their need for a power source, which now will be supplied by a novel radioisotopic battery lasting the lifetime of the pipes themselves. These features together develop a low cost, easy to install system which will last the lifetime of the pipes. 

OFWAT estimated water losses of 3281 Ml/day in the UK in 2010 through leaking pipes. It is estimated that 32 billion cubic metres are lost every year worldwide (World Bank 2006). This water is lost from the 'blue water cycle'. Not all leaks are visible and the non visible leaks are initially identified through monitoring flows into discrete areas or via slow and time consuming surveys along the lengths of pipes. This means that leaks are not identified until they have grown to sufficient size and this 'awareness time' can amount to several weeks or even months and lead to a large amount of water being lost before then. Whilst this time can vary, it is generally seen as considerably longer than the time taken to pinpoint and repair leaks. 

Eliminating the delay will substantially reduce the water lost - in this country alone by over 1000 Ml/d (~450 Ml/day for Severn Trent Water, STW, alone, who own ~1/8th of the network). Thus, on a worldwide basis the approach has the potential to save considerably more than the required 1000 Ml/d. Leakage can have dramatic effects on society. In many developing countries it is frequently the principal cause of intermittent supplies or the inability to connect more people to the pipes water network. The water has been treated and pumped with substantial embedded energy; therefore reducing leakage also reduces energy. wastage.