The limiting of water loss in the adduction and distribution networks is of crucial importance to those managing the integrated water cycle. For this reason, in 2021, we at A2A made investments in order to reach targets related to the water cycle set out in the 2030 Business Plan. Our aim is to improve the entire service in terms of the quality of the water distributed, a reduction in network leakages and an increase in the number of people served by purification.
In order to overcome the problem of EU violations, we want to contribute towards reducing water losses by 23% (cu.m/km/day) and develop a new purification capacity. For this purpose, we have rolled out an innovative new project, Noisy Leaks. It is based on the use of a technology that enables us to rapidly locate water leakages – by analysing the noise transmitted by pipelines – and monitor the state of the network both before and after repair work.
At present, the detection of leakages is by means of systematic searches in which pipeline maintenance teams carry out full auscultation of the pipelines below street level. They do this by using geophones, sensors capable of picking up sound, which, when placed in contact with the ground, detect the noise generated by water leaking out of underground pipes. Other devices, acoustic correlators, are then able to indicate a more precise location by correlating signals.
This time-consuming way of locating leakages can also be affected by operator errors or disturbance from other noise sources. It requires road work and requests for permits from local authorities, and cannot be done in bad weather.
At A2A, on the other hand, we are testing a new loss detection process, carried out differently from the way it has been done up to now. The solution has been provided by the Israeli start-up Aquarius-Spectrum, a leader in technological cloud solutions for the monitoring of municipal water distribution networks and the detection of underground water leakages from their initial stage by using both fixed and mobile acoustic sensors.
We are going to transform the spot checks carried out by maintenance staff thanks to a monitoring mechanism that is constant, positioned throughout the network, non-invasive, easy to install and visible on a dedicated platform. It is a fixed-point noise detection system combined with a water leakage processing and visualization platform. The Aquarius-Spectrum solution can monitor an entire water distribution network and provide a full updated GIS picture of each point of leakage, thus helping to ensure a high level of functioning and maintenance of the water network.
The advantages of Noisy Leaks range from the reduction in water losses to time-cost optimization. If we look in more detail, it can be seen that the main benefits are related to the reduction in:
In only seven days from the initial detection of an anomaly – compared to the average duration of a leakage of over 100 days – we have seen a hidden leakage detection efficiency of around 80%. Given the effectiveness of the project, we have already implemented the technology along 60 km of the water network in the centre of Brescia and, by the end of 2022, plan to extend coverage to other districts.
This will all lead to a foreseen containment of more than 8 million m3 of drinking water, with a saving of about 2.3 tonnes of CO2 in 10 years.
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