Developing a Framework for Selecting Condition Assessment Technologies for Water and Wastewater Pipes

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Virginia Tech

Beneath North America's roads lie 1.6 million miles of pipeline that provides users with potable water and carry away wastewater. These buried infrastructure systems have been functioning for duration longer than their intended design life, often with little or no repair. Asset management of pipeline systems pose a major challenge for most municipalities due to budgetary constraints, demand for quality service, and need to preserve existing pipeline infrastructure. The first step in developing and implementing a comprehensive asset management plan is to perform a condition assessment.

There is a gamut of inspection and monitoring technologies available to enable the condition assessment of pipelines. All of these have advantages and limitations, which determine the performance quality and effectiveness of an individual technology for particular utility assets. Unfortunately, utilities choose technologies not suitable for their specific assets and collect data that is not useful for understanding the condition of their system.

The objective of this thesis is to develop a framework for the effective selection of condition assessment technologies for water and wastewater utilities. A Microsoft-Excel based framework is developed to help the utility managers in selecting condition assessment technologies for their water and wastewater pipeline assets.

The recommended tool selection approach uses a multi-step exclusion protocol in which the tools are excluded on the basis of their applicability relating to technical feasibility and technical suitability for a particular situation. Usable tools are then compared against a performance and cost database to determine performance and cost in a given project/ utility condition.

This thesis provides a brief description and review of 24 non-destructive commercialized condition assessment technologies, including the principal and implementation considerations. A framework for decision system tool was developed to facilitate utilities in selecting appropriate condition assessment technologies. This framework could facilitate the selection of usable technologies by excluding the options which are not technically feasible and suitable. The user can then further explore the usable tools and determine the most suitable technologies for their assets.

The data considered in the research is provided by technology providers, thus it may lack complete understanding of the capabilities and limitations of technology. This thesis also presents a case study which highlights the existing gap between the understanding of capabilities and limitations of various technologies.

A program is developed as a part of this thesis, Condition Assessment Selection Tool (CAST), which consists of performance and economic database, a graphical user interface to facilitate user input, and the results of the comparison of each usable technology in the database to the project information provided by the user for their assets. The results are presented as performance indices and economic indices indicating the performance and technology cost of usable technologies. A data reliability index was also developed to provide a scale for comparing the reliability of the existing data in the database.

state of technology, monitoring technologies, inspection technologies, pipelines, utility, Water, Sewage, non-destructive technology, condition assessment technologies, acoustic fiber optic sensors, decision support system, construction management