Water Leakage Detection in Underground Distribution Networks

1. In 2009, a cycle-2 NPRP project was awarded to a joint team from the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC), Politecnico Di Torino (Polito), and the College of Engineering at Qatar University. The objective of the project is to develop a wireless-based, low cost and scalable solution to detect water leakage in underground distribution networks.

2. In Nov. 2009, QMIC and Polito launched a global research and development initiative called “Wireless Innovations for Water Conservation” to tackle water leakage and quality issues in water distribution networks. Kahramaa in Qatar, the Regional Administration of Piedmont, SMAT, and CCAM in Italy supported the initiative as conservation of water resources is of interest globally.

3. In an event held in Torino on Dec. 13th, 2012, the project teams announced the successful completion of the project. A prototype solution that can work in non-metalic pipes was announced. The solution consists of a sensor that can flow in water pipes, a gateway for communicating with the sensor, and a backend platform that has the necessary intelligence to detect the location and severity of water leakage. A patent application has been filed in 2010 and is currently in the final review process by the European Patent Office.

4. As part of the joint project, significant knowledge and know-how was created and retained in Qatar. The Qatari team was mainly responsible for the sensor design and development, design and development of communication protocols and gateway, and the backend intelligence design and development. The Italian team was mainly responsible for the antenna design and development, identification of shell options for the mobile sensor, and for setting up the field test facility.

5. Although a lot more work and investment are needed to translate this into a commercially-feasible solution, the prototye announcement represents a milestone as all key components and technologies are in place and working in the current prototype solution

6. To translate the prototype solution to a pilot solution which can be used in limited field deployments, a new R&D initiative is needed where a number of key challenges need to be tackled including (but not limited to):
– Expand the functionality to include water quality monitoring
– Design a new mobile sensing platform to reduce size, improve on-board intelligence, integrate hydro-phone function, etc and update the backend intelligence accordingly.
– Set up a proper field test facility in Qatar to address different deployment parameters and conditions
– Design and develop an optimized shell for the mobile sensor that can withstand high water pressure

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