Leak detection program saves Hamilton over $537,000

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Efforts to proactively detect water leaks in underground pipes across the City of Hamilton save the city about $537,068 last year.

The program was launched In early 2021, after a two-year long pilot.

“Hamilton’s infrastructure is used every day by millions of residents and businesses. The leak detection program proactively detects water leaks which will bring vital infrastructure that we all rely on to a good state of repair and will result in cost savings for residents,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

In 2021, Hamilton treated and distributed over 74 million cubic metres of water to homes and staff identified broken and leaking watermains as the top cause of water loss, with about 300 watermain breaks each year.

Hamilton’s unique geography and rocky, porous ground means many watermain leaks and breaks that do not surface and have the potential to remain undetected for years. These hidden leaks account for a large amount of lost water and cause serious damage to the pipe network, create erosion which results in pipes breaking, and even cause damage to foundations or roads, bridges and buildings.

In 2019 and 2020, a pilot project was created to proactively detect problem areas using leading-edge leak detection technology. Staff targeted about 400 kilometres of watermain and found 177 leaks.

Based on that success, a formal leak detection program launched last year with a goal of assessing the entire water system by the end of the year. Magnetic listening devices were attached to fire hydrants and isolation valves to listen for leaks that could be within 100 meters.

Devices were activated between 2 and 4 a.m., when water usage and traffic noise are typically less, meaning less interference and more accurate readings. After locating a potential leak with the listening device, crews would head into the field to pinpoint the exact leak location.

At the end of 2021, proactive leak detection technology was deployed to more than 5,990 locations and had identified an additional 109 leaks (17 of these leaks were located on private water service lines).

The City of Hamilton’s water system is one of Canada’s oldest and most complex. It includes six (6) water distribution systems, 2,031 kms of water mains, 13,568 hydrants, 23,305 valves, and 153,647 service connections.

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