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Leak detection

Water service operators have always known that, however we try to stop them, there will always be leaks. Sometimes it's not easy to find them. Some can even go undetected for years, despite periodic searches of all pipes.
We wondered if it would be possible to locate a leak using an automated system. We have already registered a European patent based on our research into this.
The goal of this project is to define an effective solution that can be implemented on our networks.

The project came about as a natural progression of the X-water scheme (remote reading of drinking water meters). It consists of the study of innovative systems for automatically locating leaks, to be used in conjunction with remote meter reading.

A test site was set up in 2007, and tests in different environmental conditions were carried out.
In 2008, survey techniques were refined, firstly by creating the prototype device for automatic, unmanned screening in the field, secondly by developing a tool for statistical analysis based on the MatLab® platform, and thirdly by designing a device to simulate water leaks.
The tool was ready in 2009, when it was rolled out to customers together with the acquisition instrumentation completed the previous year. The mass of data collected has been used to improve the characterisation of the phenomenon.
In 2010, a new prototype device to facilitate data collection in various operating conditions and with various types of connections was designed and built.
In 2011, data was gathered from several different regions, enabling the signal analysis algorithm to be further refined.
In 2012 the data sample was boosted with some insights into the methods used to acquire the signals. Tests also began to compare the use of sensors with accelerometer and hydrophone sensors (the use of hydrophones is innovative for applications on connections).

Another important experiment in terms of leak detection has been launched and is still in progress, in Riolo Terme (RA).

These are sensors (hydrophones) on fire hydrants, capable of detecting the occurrence of leaks based on anomalies in the sound of the water network, thus ensuring that repairs can be carried out swiftly.
In view of the detection capabilities of hydrophones, each of which can detect leaks up to 500-600 metres away, 13 sensors have been installed covering a distribution network of approximately 14 kilometres in the town of Riolo Terme.
If, during the analysis of noise vibrations produced by the network the hydrophone detects an anomaly, it sends a signal through a receiver positioned nearby to one of 17 repeaters mounted on public lampposts. From here the signal is relayed to the control unit at the reservoir that supplies the network. At this point the data is picked up by the Hera remote control centre, which takes the necessary action to correct the anomaly.
It is a genuine example of how the smart grid can be applied to the water industry, detecting faults and anomalies in real time and reducing the deployment time of emergency response teams to the site.
It is the first time that this innovative monitoring system has been installed and tested in Italy.

The system was launched in November, after the necessary instrument calibration period.
This innovative system is designed to deliver a constant improvement in terms of the security and continuity of the service by means of remote control instruments and in real time.
If the initial trial is a success, an analysis will be carried out to assess whether it can be used on a larger scale.

2017 Economic results - Comments of the President
Risultati economici 2017 - Il commento del Presidente del Gruppo Hera