Detecting and locating water leakages in underground water distribution pipes has been studied in this research activity. The importance behind this research is driven by the huge amount of lost water in buried water distribution systems. It is estimated that worldwide, approximately 48 billion m3 water is lost per year. The monetary value of this lost water is about USD 14.6 billion and this amount of water is sufficient to supply 200 million people. Besides the monetary aspect of the lost water, leakages create a public health risk when a leak becomes a potential entry point for contaminants when the water pressure drops below certain levels.

Conventionally, water leakages in underground pipes are detected and located using systems based on several techniques and technologies amongst which are: tracer gases, thermography, pressure and flow modeling, and ground penetrating radars (GPRs). Although these techniques show some promise, they are expensive, complex, time consuming, and they may not be successful in detecting leakages in practical conditions. Other techniques depend on sensing the acoustic noise generated due to the pressure gradient over the pipe's inner and outer surfaces. The difficulty with this technique is that it requires operators with an experienced professional background and it is critical in urban environments with high background noise.

In this research, an innovative solution has been introduced in which a free-floating detecting module is inserted into the underground water pipe. This module gathers information about existing leakages and then wirelessly transmits the information to a ground station on real-time basis. The detecting module contains the sensing element, i.e. a hydrophone, the radio frequency (RF) unit, the processing unit, and an antenna. The challenge in this solution lays on designing a mobile module able to send electromagnetic waves from inside the pipes to the surface through the fluid, the pipe's material and the terrain. Other challenges include: studying the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) among various components that exist within the sensor module, wave propagation analysis, designing the wireless protocol taking into consideration power optimization, and developing algorithms for data analysis.


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  1. A. Kadri, A.A. Dayya, D. Trinchero, R. Stefanelli, T. Khattab, M. Hasna, Real-time leakage detection in underground water pipelines using wireless communication, QFARF Proceedings, 2010, EEO5.
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