Cordoned off street as water flows from a burst water main

Water leakage in pipes reduced using AI pressure controller

Image credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Water leakage in pipe networks is being reduced thanks to new a new technology that hands pressure control over to an AI.

The software has already been used by Coca-Cola Femsa (the largest Coca-Cola franchise bottler in the world by sales volume, serving much of the Latin America and South America regions) to reduce leakage from the soft drink bottling process by 2 per cent, equivalent to 2.5 million cubic meters per year.

The system, dubbed Leaf, controls several variables in a production line based on fuzzy logic (a branch of AI) and is currently used by more than 35 companies.

“Control of water pressure in a distribution network is considered one of the most important operational factors in water distribution,” said Igor Santiago, president of I.Systems which developed the AI.

“Low pressure may be insufficient to transport the water to the most distant or highest points in a city. High pressure increases leak losses and may lead to burst pipes.”

Leaf is able to monitor an entire water distribution network in real time and uses AI to interconnect variables such as time and date (including whether it is a holiday), local temperature, time of year and whether it is vacation season, among others and adjusts water pressure accordingly in the distribution network.

The software uses all this information to adapt pressure instantly to changes in demand and can predict supply requirements for periods of up to 72 hours.

“Based on this dataset, the AI system makes a projection and assigns water pressure responsibilities to each booster and PRV in the network,” Santiago said.

“It’s as if all the pumps and valves in the network operated as a single intelligence, in a global and integrated manner, instead of individually. This means, for example, that it prevents activation of a valve causing unwanted effects elsewhere in the work. In sum, it optimises the operation as a whole.”

In a test study with a Brazilian sanitation company, the system achieved a 5.8 per cent reduction in water flow after taking a week to adapt to the region’s water supply profile.

More efficient control thanks to the software also resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in the minimum night-time flow rate and hence cut losses throughout the network.

Among the obstacles the firm has faced in its efforts to take the solution to other Brazilian cities is the utilities’ limited infrastructure. Most do not have a sufficient level of automation to enable valves to be controlled remotely.

“Many utilities still use manual control systems, meaning an operative has to be sent out into the field to change valve aperture. In these situations, our system can’t work,” Santiago said.

In December, new figures from the Consumer Council for Water showed that water leakage from UK pipes rose to over three billion litres a day. 

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