How to Inspect Underground Water Pipeline Leaking and Damage as an Engineering Firm

Each drop of clean water is priceless. Unfortunately, infrastructure deterioration causes a good amount of loss of water. In addition, the water supplier loses money for every drop of water that leaks. Leaks and fractures in pipes and fittings cause water loss. Since most infrastructure is underground, visually finding the leaks’ position often requires waiting until the water has surfaced; even then, the precise location may not be known. Detecting leaks in piped systems can be challenging, especially because pipes are often buried or located behind walls.

However, technological advancements have led to enhanced techniques for detecting and fixing pipe leaks.

Leak detection necessitates specialized equipment, which enables experts to analyze precisely the location and severity of pipeline leaks. This is an expanding and developing field that incorporates both established technology and creative approaches.

Why Is Leak Detection Important?

Water lost due to leakage, waste, or simple theft is referred to as non-revenue water since it never reaches consumers and hence does not generate income for the water provider. These can be the consequence of water physically exiting the system or water that has yet to be accounted for because of inaccurate meter readings, manipulated meters, sloppy record-keeping, or human error.

Existing and new technologies monitor and prevent physical water losses. These will continue until they are discovered. Even little leaks can result in considerable losses over lengthy periods of time due to the compounding of losses. And if water can escape, pollutants (dirt, bacteria, organics, etc.) might enter and degrade the water’s quality, even making it undrinkable.

There are flows of water that are reported for but have yet to be revenue-producing since the city managing the water supply system might be its own customer. Uses of this kind include the city’s fire department, parks’ sprinklers, and irrigation systems, public swimming pools, recreation centers, etc.

  • Acoustic Detection

Acoustic detection remains the most prevalent technique for detecting and localizing pipeline leaks. Acoustic leak detection is defined as the systematic process of inspecting the distribution system, recognizing leak sounds, and locating the precise locations of concealed subterranean leaks using listening equipment.

High-pressure water escaping from a pipe leak or rupture produces a rushing or hissing sound that can go a considerable distance along the pipe’s length in contrast, the loose soil surrounding the pipe in its backfilled trench makes a poor conductor of sound. In this regard, the pipe functions as a sound transmission channel. Consequently, it can act similarly to guitar strings, vibrating at different pitches for pipes of different lengths, diameters, and materials. Small-diameter metal pipes can transmit sound up to 1,000 linear feet, whereas large-diameter polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes can transmit sound only 100 feet.

  • Mobile Acoustic Sensors

A number of sensory equipment modes are employed to identify this sound. They might be mobile or stationary, direct or indirect, external or internal, send data through radio, or manually download data onto laptops. There are mobile acoustic sensors that can be manually driven or rolled along the pipe section. In each instance, the sensors are ground microphones that listen under the surface as the operator traverses the pipe segment.

As it approaches the target with its sensor, the signal will get louder. In addition, permanent devices are installed at strategic points throughout the pipe network. Typically, the accuracy is between 3 and 4 feet, which is sufficient for digging operations to locate and repair the leak. The local environment and the design of buildings can hinder the use of mobile devices. Surface noise can be muffled by deep soil, thick road paving, and significant local traffic.

  • Pressure Differences

Secondary leak detection techniques utilize pressure differentials. These are monitored by strategically positioned flow meters and pressure gauges that may pinpoint the location of a leak based on data variations. For instance, if flow rates at the beginning of a pipe length are significantly higher than those at the conclusion, there is likely a leak between these two locations.

Immediately after installation, pressure drops compared to the initial operating condition indicate water egress and subsequent pressure reduction from the initial state. The two methods can be utilized in conjunction with pressure and flow differentials to bracket the position of the leak and mobile acoustic sensors running along the bracketed length to identify its location. The former saves the latter an enormous amount of time and labor.

In addition to the immediate loss of water, municipal water loss due to pipeline ruptures incurs substantial energy expenses. All of the electrical energy is wasted if the pumped water escapes the system. Damage to the surrounding infrastructure is a high, albeit indirect, additional cost. The aging and failing infrastructure (moving and dislodging pipes, potholes in highways, shifting and sinking structural foundations, etc.) is an expensive time bomb.

What Should You Do If Your Pipes Leak?

If any of the above-described leak detection methods uncover plumbing problems, you typically have two options.

  • You may either replace the leaking pipes or the entire system
  • Renovate your pipes with epoxy pipelining.

Pipes with many pinhole leaks or extremely thin walls must be replaced since they have lost the majority of their structural integrity, if not all of it.

  • Epoxy Pipelining

Epoxy lining protects the pipe from further damage and seals tiny pinhole leaks, but it does not necessarily reinforce the pipe. If your walls, ceilings, or floors do not show visible signs of water damage, you may be a candidate for trenchless pipe restoration, which involves repairing the pipes without removing large portions of the wall.

If your pipes may be repaired with epoxy relining, they are meticulously cleaned and dried before the installation of the epoxy coating or pipe liner. Commonly, pipelining is performed on drain lines to seal leaks and restore the pipe’s durability. In contrast, epoxy coatings are utilized to prevent further corrosion and plug pinhole leaks in water supply lines.

Contact the Experts in Leak Detection

We are aware of how frustrating it may be when piped systems develop leaks; this is why we make it a priority to repair the problem promptly and efficiently from the very beginning to the very end.

Please contact Superb Engineer for a free consultation if you suspect a water leak in your home. Moreover, you can also send us an inquiry through our website.

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