A 21st century update on the Victorian listening stick is set to revolutionise the detection of leaks in water trunk mains.
Syrinix’s technology provides a means to reduce the 3.3 billion litres of treated water lost every day in the UK by making maintenance more cost-effective.
The company has been recognised with an “Eco-Innovation Award” by ECOLINK+, an European Union initiative to stimulate commercial uptake of clean technology.
Syrinix, a spinout from the University of East Anglia, has developed a technology that uses vibro–acoustic signals from the water mains pipe and analyses these sounds to enable leaks to be detected in their early stages and pinpoint their location.
James Dunning, chief executive of Syrinix, explains that a small leak makes a distinctive sound which changes as it increases in size and severity.
“Control of water loss has been a concern since Roman times and traditionally listening has been a method of leak detection. The problem is knowing where to listen. Often the first the water authority knows about a leak is when the main bursts.”
The result can be catastrophic, a recent burst in Accrington meant that hundreds of schools, homes and businesses were without water for more than 48 hours and 30 network engineers worked in shifts for 72 hours to fix the problem. Thousands of litres of water can be lost, devastating surrounding properties.
The Syrinix system, called TrunkMinder, can provide early warning of the leak and its location. This will enable targeted maintenance to extend the life of the network. This is extremely cost effective, it has been estimated for the Athens water supply system, for example, that the cost of replacing the water supply main is five hundred times greater than its preventative maintenance cost.
TrunkMinder analyses information from sensors located along the pipeline. It is able to identify the signals created by leaking water and monitor these over time creating a body of intelligence about the health of the network. Although £7.5bn has been invested in infrastructure improvement in the UK over the last ten years, leakage has increased. With TrunkMinder it would be possible to plan and prioritise future maintenance and make it more effective.
Judges at the ECOLINK+ Trans-Regional Event, held at the St John’s Innovation Centre, Cambridge nominated Syrinix as an EU Top 100 business.
David Moir, Project manager for ECOLINK+, was impressed with the originality and business potential of the technology.
He says: “We now have drought warnings in the East of England and yet every day, water treated at great expense is being lost to the system. Syrinix technology offers an opportunity to reduce this waste and also to extract greater knowledge of the infrastructure to improve its management and maintenance.”
Other UK companies highlighted by ECOLINK+ as having eco-innovative solutions include Bio Group which creates renewable energy from organic waste and Enval, which allows the recovery of aluminum from laminated packaging waste.