New technology detects water main leaks without digging

Posted on 6 October 2017 at 4:48pm

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri American Water is partnering with EnTech Engineering, Inc. to use a new high-tech method to detect leaking and broken water mains without digging into the ground to find them.

The company will use Infrared Energy Pattern Analysis (IR-EPA), along with acoustics and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), to survey Missouri American Water's entire distribution area. The technology looks for temperature differences in the ground between the surrounding soil and any water that may be leaking out.

According to a press release, the technology uses "van-mounted tools to scan underground water mains and identify possible leaks and breaks, with an accuracy of better than 80 percent."

"In the course of a single precipitation-free night, EnTech can scan 15-20 miles of underground water main and provide Missouri American Water a snapshot of possible locations for breaks."

Brent Haas, operations manager, said the work will have to happen at night to improve accuracy.

"The trucks work at night because they need the temperature to be equal," Haas said. "For example, if they were to go out during the day, if a car had been parked on the street right before they drive by looking for leaks, that ground will be cooler and that's part of what they look for as far as a leak signature."

The crews will be working throughout the night over the next few weeks.

"We didn't want citizens to be alarmed," Haas said. "If they see these vans driving around at night, they're just looking for leaks. If they drive down the street and think they see something, they're going to turn around and investigate from the other direction and what folks will see is they'll stop and investigate further if they think there's a problem."

Haas said he expects the infrared technology will help with non-revenue water loss.

"Non-revenue water loss is water that gets lost in the distribution system and we don't know where it's going," Haas said. "If that water doesn't make it to the end result, which is the customer and usage, then it's just being wasted."

In a press release, Brian Eisenloeffel, senior operations manager said, "It also makes the work we do much safer for our employees, it saves our customers money and reduces repair costs and property damage. We’re really excited about its potential.”

Haas said repairs of water main leaks will still require digging in to fix them, but having the infrared technology will help improve the accuracy with which Missouri American Water digs.

EnTech started investigating the distribution system Oct. 5.

Haas said it will take EnTech 3-4 weeks to investigate the entire distribution system, then results will be given to Missouri American water. Missouri American will go out and fix leaks based on the findings.