Soil, weather and other environmental factors make it hard to prevent water mains breaking, says SA Water’s Chief Executive Roch Cheroux. But technology can help.

SA Water now has evidence to back up that claim, after nearly two years operating a $4 million “smart water network” trial in Adelaide.

The trial used more than 300 acoustic sensors to detect over half of all water main breaks and leaks in the Adelaide CBD. SA Water proactively detected and repaired more than 40 faults during the trial period.

The sensors monitor about 50 per cent of Adelaide’s’ main water network, in addition to six other locations in South Australia.

Each sensor detects about 200 noises each day and SA Water works to understand noise patterns to identify problems. In the CBD, it is also using smart meters, mass pressure sensors, water quality sensors, mass flow meters and pressure transient/hydrophone sensors. 

While the system can’t prevent all breaks, it’s helping SA Water learn more about the water network.

“Most reactive incidents were sudden failures that didn’t offer any detectable signs, and the reality is there will be some that behave in this way, but they still teach us about how the rest of the network responds,” Roch stated.

“We are the first water utility in the world to implement a range of Internet of Things-enabled sensors at scale in a defined geographical area, and it is important that we share the knowledge we have built with the wider industry as well as continuing to improve our own network management practices,” he added.