A water utility’s highest priority is maintaining a safe and uninterrupted water supply to its customers, whether households or businesses. That puts ageing water mains in Australian cities at the top of their list, along with the desire to prevent rather than react to critical pipe failures.
Data scientists at UTS have been developing data-driven models for predicting critical water pipe failure in an Australian context for over 10 years now.
Using machine learning techniques they have created a model that determines which water mains are at risk of failure in the year ahead, with Sydney Water, for example, now able to better prioritise pipes for further inspection and for renewal.
The model uses a range of pipe data, including materials and coatings employed, the year laid, and history of failures. By looking at how these factors were involved in other pipe failures, the relative likelihood of failure between sets of pipes can be determined.
This year, UTS has become the lead research partner in a $3 million project to deliver smart sensing solutions to the Australian water industry, under the auspices of the NSW Smart Sensing Network. The NSSN brings together expertise across leading NSW universities to develop smart sensing solutions for industry, government and end-user partners.
The project will involve leading water utilities such as Sydney Water, Hunter Water, SA Water, Melbourne Water, Queensland Urban Utilities and Intelligent Water Networks. UTS, UNSW, the University of Newcastle and the Australian National University will deliver acoustic sensing and data analytics for the prevention of leaks and breaks in critical pipe infrastructure.
With better targeting of high-risk pipes, water utilities can reduce the cost of asset maintenance while minimising disruption to customers.
In the longer term, outcomes from this project may be used to harness opportunities for significant economic, environmental, and social impact, supporting the application of new technologies and solutions to important national and global challenges in water.