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Updated: February 28, 2013 12:42 IST

SmartBall to get rolling in city pipelines soon

G. Krishnakumar
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Novel technology to detect leakage points in supply mains

A smart ball will soon start rolling through pipelines in the city as part of the Kerala Water Authority’s (KWA) decision to introduce a novel technology to detect leakage points.

An acoustic leak-detection sensor developed by Canada-based Pure Technologies Ltd, the foam ball is a free-swimming inline leak-detection system designed to operate in live water mains. SmartBall has an instrument-filled aluminium alloy core capable of detecting and locating very small leaks and air pockets in pipelines. It is inserted into a pipeline to travel with the water and collect information on leakage points.

Senior KWA officials said the technology would be employed on an experimental basis in the pipeline between Kathrikadavu and Kadavantra. The 450 mm diameter GI pipeline is connected to the KWA’s water storage facility near the GCDA building in Kadavantra.

The pipeline from Kathrikadavu to Kadavantra was laid with an objective of taking water to the storage point at the GCDA junction. The pipeline was set up to meet the increasing need for water during periods of acute water scarcity.

Inspections found that water was not reaching the storage point, as it was mainly used for local distribution. Besides the illegal connections that snatch water away from this network, leakage is suspected to be a reason for the shortage of water to fill up the storage tank.

KWA had recently found that only 104 mld (million litres per day) of drinking water was accounted for out of the total 168 mld reaching the city from the pumping station in Aluva. Illegal connections and water theft are the prime causes for this widening gap between supply and billing.

The SmartBall, which can be inserted and retrieved from a pipeline under normal operation, will also provide information on water theft along the line. The ball travels with the water flow for up to 12 hours, collecting information about leaks over many miles of pipeline with a single deployment.

Its acoustic sensor passes through the entire length of pipe being surveyed. The sensor can clearly discern the acoustic activity associated with leaks. This data is recorded and post-processed to report the presence and location of leaks.

SmartBall calculates the locations of leaks by detecting acoustic pulses emitted by the ball at receivers attached to pipe appurtenances. The locations of the leaks relative to the receiver positions are determined by analysing arrival times of the pulses.

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