Years of research has established our Department as a world leader in critical pipe failure, management and prevention

pipe failure prevention

Communities around the world face the escalating problem of failing and ageing buried pipes in their water supply and distribution networks. Pipe failure can mean communities lose access to potable water resulting in inconvenience to households and industry, as well as significant economic costs. Led by Professor Jayantha Kodikara, a number of large and vitally relevant research projects are greatly mitigating the potential risks posed by ageing pipes in Australia and globally.

Professor Kodikara has been recognized with four awards for his contribution to the Advanced Condition Assessment (CA) and Pipe Failure Prediction Project, which recently concluded with the publication of three open webinars presented live to 800 engineering professionals across the globe earlier this year. These webinars can be accessed via the US Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) website. The AU$13.4m project was led by Sydney Water with university research partners from the Department of Civil Engineering at Monash University as well as University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and University of Newcastle (UoN). Six Australian water authorities, the US Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) and UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) were also involved. The project’s aim was to improve pipe inspection and prediction of pipe failure, to reduce renewal/maintenance costs, and to improve customer service and reliability.

The project has produced an innovative model that is being used to predict the probability of pipe failure. It is a world first calibrated model that predicts the long-term (>20 years) exterior corrosion of cast iron water pipes, and enhanced interpretations of information gathered from existing pipe CA tools though innovative machine learning methods. As a result, the international water community can address pipe failure management more accurately, efficiently and economically, with better customer service.

The project also established a new failure mode concept in relation to pipes leaking prior to a catastrophic burst—Leak Before Break. The value of this concept is that it can be used to prevent pipe failure through leakage monitoring, which was previously used only for preventing water wastage. This concept is being adopted by several water utilities including South Australia Water, who have installed a large number of sensors in the Adelaide CBD for leak monitoring. The research is still progressing in this area to develop advanced leak detection techniques and relating them to pipe fracture level through acoustic leak signatures. In this context, a novel distributed fiber optic sensor is being developed at Monash for deployment in buried pipelines.

Many other research collaborations are on-going in this space of pipe management and failure detection. Most recently Professor Kodikara, along with the Monash Infrastructure Institute has been assigned to investigate the limited performance and poor market penetration of ‘smart linings’, a technology that could extend the lifespan of ageing pipes, preventing costly leaks. This has major implications since Australia has about 40,000km of asbestos cement water pipes of which many have begun to fail. This project will look for technologies to rehabilitate without digging them up.

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