Case Study: Ovarro’s Collaborative Leakage Project with Anglian Water

Matthew Hawkridge - Ovarro - World Water-Tech Innovation Summit
Matthew Hawkridge, CTO, OVARRO, UK

Leakage remains one of the biggest concerns for the water industry – around 21% of water put into the public supply in England and Wales is lost, and with climate change and an increasing population leading to widespread water stress, pressure on water companies to plug leaks has never been greater.

In setting a tough 16% leakage reduction target for the 2020-25 AMP7 period, Ofwat is expecting companies to adopt new techniques to tackle the problem – but at no extra cost to customers. UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) is looking even further ahead by asking how we achieve zero leakage by 2050?

With an ageing distribution network becoming ever-more prone to leaks and bursts, it is clear utilities cannot continue to do what they have always done and deliver on their commitments. The good news is industrial IoT is reshaping the landscape.

For the water industry, the installation of multiple cost-effective leak detection devices makes capturing real-time operational data much easier. By harnessing and transmitting this wealth of newly available data, companies can carry out strategic operational analysis to drive efficiencies and reduce cost.

Leak detection specialist, Ovarro’s research and development team works closely with utilities to develop best-in-class technologies. The Sheffield-based global company partnered with Anglian Water to develop a revolutionary remote leak detection device, Enigma3hyQ and cloud-based data platform, PrimeWeb.

Ahead of the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in London (February 22-23), Ovarro shares a detailed case study about its collaboration with Anglian Water.

Revolutionary remote leak detection
The utility approached Ovarro in 2017 with an idea to adapt existing technology by combining two products – a correlating noise logger and a site-based hydrophone. A collaborative development team was established with experts from both organisations to create the Enigma3hyQ system’s hardware and software elements, including a workflow management app and PrimeWeb, a cloudbased data collection and analytics platform for monitoring pressure and flow and pinpointing leaks.

Enigma3hyQ loggers use immersed acoustic hydrophone sensors that “listen” to sound waves inside the pipe to pinpoint leaks. The fixed devices return data, via 3G or GPRS, to PrimeWeb to be analysed by utility leakage teams. The data is accessible remotely, allowing users to quickly identify problems such as exceptional usage or low pressure, with PrimeWeb generating greater insights.

A UK-patented mathematical correlation technique is fundamental to operation of Enigma3hyQ. In event of a leak between two loggers, the noise emitted takes a measurable amount of time to reach each logger. A set of digital signal processing algorithms correlates the two recordings to determine the time difference between the sounds.

Along with the speed of sound in the pipe and the distance between the loggers, this is used to compute the leak location. The system synchronises daily to ensure precision. This level of accuracy was not possible via traditional acoustic detection and fixed network options were considered cost prohibitive.

Enigma3hyQ (Separate Hydrophone)

The sensors are also effective in finding leaks over long distances and inside plastic pipes. Historically, one of the industry’s biggest challenges was detecting leaks from plastic pipes as they do not transmit noise when they leak.

The technology has been called a game changer by Anglian Water’s smart water strategy manager Andy Smith, who said: “We very much created the technology together. We didn’t want to just accept what was on offer, we wanted to collaborate to drive for the best solution for the challenge we faced.”

Delivering multiple benefits
The technology is delivering multiple benefits for Anglian Water. Between April 2018 and January 2021, the system found 6,783 leaks on its network, making it three times more efficient than traditional detection techniques. Anglian Water, on average, sees a 1:1 ratio of leaks found to points of interest issued.

Having the ability to precisely pinpoint leaks enables utilities to monitor networks continuously and in real-time, meaning response rates will improve, reducing customer complaints and the risk of regulatory fines. More importantly, Anglian Water’s leakage reduction strategy is linked to its water resource management plan and securing of future resilience.

Improving leak management will improve water quality and network pressure, which could reduce pumping costs. Operational costs will be saved as fewer leakage teams are required in the field and there will be less above-ground disruption.

Utilities’ customers benefit as more efficient management of the network should bring down costs which could be reflected in bills. Most critically, reducing water loss makes supplies more resilient.

An example of best practice in collaboration between utilities and suppliers, the project was recognised at the Water Industry Awards in May 2021, where it was named Alliancing and Partnership Initiative of the Year.

Traditionally innovative companies come up with a solution and try to sell into UK water companies. The limits are that the technology supplier does not necessarily know the utility’s precise challenges and requirements.

Applying a dynamic approach, Anglian Water used its internal expertise to partner on a solution that best suits its own needs and those of the wider industry. The utility accessed Ovarro’s in-house engineering, R&D and data analytics capability and had an open view of the development process. Ovarro gained valuable industry insight from its utility partner, information about specific district metered areas and access to test and trial sites.

Josh Britton, Ovarro global product line manager, said: “The success of the Enigma3hyQ shows how much can be achieved when suppliers work in partnership with utilities, place high value on feedback and take their ideas forward to develop new solutions.”

Ongoing leak detection innovation
In 2021, the technology was updated further, resulting in the launch of the Enigma3-BB, a remote leak detection device which uses the Enigma3hyQ technology but which is installed directly into an operational meter box chamber – a first for the industry with this type of technology. The new option to fit loggers onto a meter box chamber gives utilities an alternative means of connecting to the water mains network with more access points.

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