Role of water authority’s Leak Detection Unit in focus

A pipe-burst in the city, albeit after a brief lull, has once again illustrated serious technical inadequacies plaguing the Kerala Water Authority (KWA), with some quarters pointing out that Friday’s burst could have been avoided if the leak that led to the burst was detected in time. And this, when there existed a Leak Detection Unit (LDU) set up for this very purpose.

KWA officials said the unit became dormant after the staff trained for the purpose were transferred and posted to different sections and places. Now, with leaks and pipe-bursts becoming a regular occurrence over the past one year, attempts have begun to bring LDU back into action.

The LDU, which was attached to the KWA’s Non-Revenue Water Management (NRWM) unit two months ago, is yet to have a dedicated team. The makeshift team currently comprises two Assistant Engineers, two overseers, one surveyor, and one plumber, who will use various equipment to detect leaks and alert the repair and maintenance wing.

K.S. Praveen, Assistant Executive Engineer, NRWM, said the team had slowly started working, trying to map leaks in specified areas. The job was tough, since it had to be done mostly in the night when other noise disturbances were at a minimum.

The equipment being used included a leak amplifier, a ground microphone, electronic listening stick, a leak noise detector and correlator, and a flow measure device. The KWA had earlier deployed a SmartBall, an acoustic leak-detection sensor, which was inserted into pipelines to travel with the water and collect information. This could be used only in pipes with insertion points of at least 100 mm diameter. The likes of the 400-mm primo pipe that burst on Friday and most distribution pipelines could not be analysed using the SmartBall for this reason. The plan now, Mr. Praveen said, was to use Sahara, also from the same Canadian company that made SmartBall and comprised a camera attached to a drag chute which uses the flow of water to draw the sensor through water and to shoot visuals en route.

The LDU had started from Aruvikkara and would conduct a study till Chala, with flow measure devices already installed at Aruvikkara, Vazhayila, and Vellayambalam.

One predicament that haunted the LDU was that none of its members were exclusively for leak detection works.

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