Cutting Sewer Costs with Asset Management and Leak Detection

New asset management and leak detection techniques are helping cities and taxpayers to avoid major infrastructure investments. Inside we detail the city of Ottawa's asset management plan, the EPA's guidelines, and leak detection technologies

What Happened?

The city of Ottawa agreed to major recommendations from the municipality’s Infrastructure Services Department regarding repairs to its aging sewer system and improving current asset management practices. The infrastructure review followed a recent collapse in the city’s storm sewer system that will result in costly repairs and created a threat to public safety.

So What?

The recommended changes are part of the city’s Comprehensive Asset Management program focused on preserving the sewer system to help maintain safe roadways. The plan calls for increased inspection protocols and monitoring where aging pipes present a threat and the stabilization of pipes surrounding weakened regions.

The goals of the assessment policy include:

  • Creating a governance structure to develop best practices for overseeing assets
  • Balancing customer expectations with risks, affordability and time-constraints
  • Developing asset management knowledge to ensure long-term sustainability
  • Deploying life cycle costing when evaluating asset investment opportunities and improvements
  • Pursuing legislative solutions to make infrastructure resilient to social, economic and environmental changes
  • Researching alternative sources of funding to support continuous asset evaluations and improvements

Value of Asset Management

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlined the goals of a strong asset management system to better guide the acquisition, use and disposal of key infrastructure assets, and optimize usage while minimizing costs for taxpayers. The main elements include:

  • Defining the level of service
  • Selecting performance goals
  • Deploying an information system
  • Identifying and valuing assets
  • Conducting failure impact evaluation and risk management reviews
  • Assessing the condition of infrastructure
  • Planning for rehabilitation and replacements
  • Determining assessment and assurance demands
  • Analyzing and planning maintenance schedules
  • Improving infrastructure on a regular basis

Leak Detection Technology

Just as Ottawa is enhancing its asset management strategy, many other municipalities are joining suit and adopting leak detection technology to save time and money in water system assessments. Some cities with plastic pipe systems are finding traditional acoustic sensing techniques fail to fully gauge the condition of a water system, and are turning to a more accurate technology that sends a pressure wave to find anomalies in the pipe’s surface.

The leak detection technology attaches to a water hydrant and uses a valve to generate a pressure wave that reports a reflection for analysis when imperfections are detected on a pipe’s surface. As lost water due to leaking pipes can account for 20 to 40 percent of total water usage in a community, leak detection is a top priority. Water departments can easily monitor and act upon weaknesses found in water systems quickly and efficiently with the new technology, reducing the potential for significant leaks or collapses while optimizing return on investment for each replaced pipe.

Financial Dashboard

City leaders can also register for a financial dashboard solution to view possible strategies to support water utility maintenance and preservation. Water departments can use the dashboard to establish a rate structure, budget for expenses and forecast system revenues several years in advance. In addition, the online solution helps utilities manage capital assets, while monitoring past and projected water usage in the community.

Similar Projects

In South Bend, Indiana, new sensors were added to water networks to save money while improving infrastructure performance.

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