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Tucson Water is Focusing on Reducing Water Loss

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Tucson Water’s Condition Assessment Program (CAP) team is focusing on reducing water loss from 7% to 4% from aging facilities – pipes, hydrants, valves, mains, and more. Here’s information about how the utility is testing data-driven applications, pinpointing leaks, and stopping water loss before it happens.

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Build on the utility’s traditional methods—boots on the ground and electromagnetic technology—to identify leaks. Since 2007, Tucson Water has used an acoustic leak detection technology based on measurements of a floating, rotating ball through pipes. An acoustic sensor is placed inside a robust 2.5” diameter ball and inserted into a foam ball that is lowered into point A of a flowing water pipe. The sensor counts ball revolutions and listens for leaks until it is captured and removed at point B—sometimes miles away. The sensor is plugged into a computer and its data is retrieved.

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With a grant from the Arizona Department of Water Resources, pilot different technology using a tethered acoustic sensor in flowing pipes. The CAP team quickly discovered that the technology was incompatible with our system’s pipes and ended the pilot. The team pivoted to focus on increasing the use of the existing ball-based system, a more effective and compatible acoustic technology for Tucson Water.

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Launch a 2022 pilot test using third-party satellite imagery and data analysis. An orbiting satellite sweeps Tucson Water’s infrastructure assets across the service area, collecting data (including traces of chlorine) that indicate the presence of pools of potable water under the surface. Tucson Water’s GIS specialists provide detailed maps of the water system, and analysts overlay satellite imagery on the pipe maps to pinpoint hotspots where leaks may be occurring. CAP team members follow up to inspect and address.

Pilot a newer leak detection system that uses small acoustic monitor “bugs” and artificial intelligence (AI). Tucson Water has purchased 500 of these bugs that we will attach to meters, hydrants, and valves throughout Tucson. A bug continually monitors sites to detect a leak size and location with a 94% accuracy rate. CAP will rotate the bugs once a week throughout the water system to validate effectiveness over a three-month pilot.

What’s next? The CAP team will analyze the data from these different applications to create a strategic approach to prevent water loss. The approach will also identify the best data driven tools to address aging infrastructure, with the potential to shape Tucson Water’s future capital investment in pipes, valves, hydrants, and other facilities.

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