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Cutting Edge - Software predicts pipe failure

MATERIALS

INCREASED demand can put immense pressure on an ageing water supply system, particularly in heavily populated areas.

Thankfully dramatic failures of large-diameter water mains are few and far between, but the consequences of failure can be both catastrophic and expensive.

But now researchers in Canada have developed a system that could help regional water authorities and local government save a fortune. Scientists at the construction centre at Canada's National Research Council have come up with prototype computer software that will help predict the deterioration of a pipe and evaluate the risk of its failing.

The project team developed a computer programme that interprets data from the field and applies that data alongside opinion and judgement from experts.

The programme is used alongside information gathered by an initial pipe survey, which highlights areas of stress or weakness found in the pipe. These areas of weakness then allow the programme to calculate the rate of deterioration of the pipe and from there a prediction on its future condition and risk of failure. Pipeline owners would then be able to set a maximum risk level and make an informed decision on when to programme in disruptive maintenance or renewal work.

Researchers expect the programme to interest water utility companies and local authorities.