A Model for Determining Leakage in Water Distribution Systems

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Virginia Tech

Leaks in pipe networks cause significant problems for utilities and water users in terms of lost revenue and interrupted service. In many cities the leakage is as high as forty percent. A water audit is carried out to assess system-wide leakage. However, to detect leakage at the level of a pipeline, a physical measurement technique is generally employed. For large cities the distribution piping length amounts to a few thousand miles. Therefore, the physical measurements can become tedious and expensive. In this thesis it is assumed that a spatial distribution of leakage can be estimated at nodes based on a water audit bookkeeping scheme. A mathematical formulation consisting of continuity, energy (headloss), pressure-dependent demands and/or leakage, and flow direction preservation equations are utilized to distribute demand flows and leakage among pipes. The leakage is attributed to the formation of corrosion holes. Based upon the extent of corrosion, the leakage flow arriving at a particular node is apportioned among all pipes that are converging at that node. Therefore, the formulation presented in this thesis captures the two essential elements behind leakage, namely, pressure driven flow distribution and the vulnerability of pipes to corrosion.

The proposed formulation allows utilities to be more proactive in identifying leakage prone districts within the water distribution system. An understanding of the pressure-dependent leakage in the system is helpful when performing a water audit and in developing strategies for leak repair programs. Restoring the full capacity of the water distribution system will greatly increase the reliability of the system, thereby benefiting local utilities and water users.

pipe networks, pressure-dependent flow, leakage, corrosion