The Issue Facing Southern Nevada Water Authority

In March 2016, the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) experienced pipeline breaks at three locations in close proximity. Working with its partner agency, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), water system operators suspected pressure transients were to blame, but the agency lacked the technology necessary to read rapid pressure spikes, which can occur for just a fraction of second.

For the water agencies to know which operational systems were to blame for the apparent transients, and how much to adjust them, it needed better pipeline flow data. SNWA and LVVWD partnered with Syrinix to address the issue by launching a pilot with the Syrinix Pipeminder-S technology.

Result of Pilot

The Pipeminder-S units were installed on small 1/4in valve connections on existing air-vac devices and automatically plotted their GPS locations via RADAR’s map interface. The pressure information was sent remotely, then via cellular connection. The minimum, mean and maximum pressure for each 15-minute interval of the day were recorded.

After one week, Syrinix concluded its pilot study, reporting clearly visible patterns of extreme pressure peaks, in some cases exceeding over 300 psi, which occurred in less than one one-hundredth of a second. Isolating the data to a moment in which a .047 second transient occurred, Syinix measured a water pressure spike from 13 psi to 323 psi, followed immediately by a drop to full vacuum. The PVC pipe was designed for a maximum pressure of 150 psi, less than half the transient force that caused the breaks.

Syrinix provided SNWA with transient graphs. When overlaid with the SNWA?s pump schedule, it became clear that pressure spikes were caused by specific valve systems. For the next week, water officials used Pipeminder-S devices to analyze whether the incidence and magnitude of transients could be lowered to around 150 psi when valve speeds were reduced.

“The high resolution monitoring gave us greater visibility, which in turn meant we could plan the specific operation repairs with the conviction that we were at the direct root of the problem,” said Kevin Fisher, LVVWD’s director of water quality and treatment. “The cost of one saved burst equated to the cost of the installation and the hardware purchased. Therefore, we’re happy that the Syrinix units not only solved our problem but saved us money and time.” In other words, Fisher added, “Syrinix technology gave us the information we required to understand why these line breaks were happening, which enabled us to act and make changes on the line to ensure it didn?t keep happening.”

Specifically, the data graph indicated an operational pressure of 10 psi, with approximately fifteen unexpected pressure transients exceeding 320 psi over a 17-hour period. Once adjustments were made to the relevant valve systems, the maximum observed pressure reduced from 323 psi to 160 psi.

The SNWA adjusted the speed and order in which individual pumps were turned on and continues to use Pipeminder-S to see whether alternative schedules have a positive or negative effect on pressure flow. Through the 50% reduction in transient magnitude, it has mitigated the risk for breaks and leaks.

Listen to a detailed interview with SNWA discussing this pilot:

Podcast Episode – Syrinix Pilot at SNWA

Opportunities for Positive Impact in Southern Nevada and Beyond

Las Vegas is formed of over 375,000 active services, with 23 active pressure zones and more than 4,500 miles of pipe ranging from 4-inch to 102-inch in size. There are more than 1,600 miles of service laterals. The area houses 79 reservoir basins and tanks that collectively hold nearly 1 billion gallons of water, 53 pumping stations with the capacity to move more than 1 million gallons of water per minute and more than 6,500 miles of water transmission and distribution pipelines.

“The utilities are geared to find leaks and fix them,” said James Dunning, CEO of Syrinix. “Some utilities have pipelines that are older than they should’ve been allowed to get, waiting for them to fail isn’t enough. You’ve got to get ahead of the curve and stop pipelines from failing in the first place.”

Bronson Mack, spokesman for the SNWA, echoed that point: “If you as a water utility can do some due diligence to minimize the wear and tear on underground infrastructure, you are going to extend the life of that infrastructure, save rate payer dollars, and prevent emergency shutdowns, brakes and repairs from occurring. The Syrinix system gives us a view inside our pipeline as to how the water is behaving, and we can optimize our operations accordingly.”

About the Syrinix Technology

Founded in the UK in 2004, and based now in Las Vegas, Syrinix had developed technology to measure water pressure fluctuations 128 times per second during every fifteen minute interval of the day. The device is called Pipeminder-S and it connects to hydrants or other valve connections, from which it sends data to RADAR, the Syrinx online portal.

“At a high level, what it’s about is giving the utility a much more detailed view of what’s happening on their network,” said Dunning. “These pressure waves move over a thousand meters every second. So if you’re only monitoring every minute or so to see if the system is okay then you’re going to miss all these pressure waves that ping around your network, straining your pipes.”

Though recognized primarily as a technology firm, Syrinix identifies itself as a risk-management company too since its data allows public utilities to avoid those repairs that over time cause water rate increases.


The Issue Facing Southern Nevada Water Authority

Every water agency wants to be ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the condition of its pipelines and overall infrastructure. Unexpected water main breaks are costly and have an economic ripple effect that limits customers from accessing businesses and causes numerous logistical disruptions. Proactive pipe management is important to identify and address failing pipes before a burst or a major leak occurs but is very difficult without the right technology.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) oversee thousands of miles of water pipeline throughout Southern Nevada. In 2015, the agencies made a bold move when they became one of the first water utilities in Nevada to employ a permanent leak monitoring technology. In April 2015, SNWA and LVVWD looked to Echologics for its emerging acoustic sensor technology that effectively detects water pipe leaks.

Result of Pilot

The technology company was commissioned to install its EchoShore- TX sensors on 30-inch diameter pipelines that run along Las Vegas Boulevard between Sunset and Flamingo roads, a roughly three-mile stretch. A total of 13 sensors were installed over the course of a week, and Las Vegas was officially one of the nation’s early adopters of constant water leak detection.

“When we first began investigating in leak detection technology, there were no products on the market that compared (to Echologics),” explained Ryan Benner, senior maintenance engineer for both the SNWA and LVVWD.

That $150,000 investment has paid off enormously, allowing the agency to gain a clearer understanding of the condition of its water pipeline infrastructure and allowing it to make better financial decisions about when and how to execute pipe repairs and initiate maintenance efforts. “This technology really allows you to deploy resources to repair leaks before catastrophic breaks occur and when it’s convenient to the customers,” added Charlie Fricke, Las Vegas-based distribution manager for Echologics.

The LVVWD had plans to replace about 500 feet of larger diameter pipeline at a busy intersection on Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip). The project would cost the agency $1 million, but the disruption to businesses in the area would be a far greater economic detriment.

“The Echologics system gave us the confidence that that pipeline was not leaking without having to dig up the entire intersection for a visual inspection,” Benner said. “The Echologics system is now monitoring this underground infrastructure so that we can respond swiftly if a leak does occur.”

“This is really a technology that has a lot of pent-up demand,” added Nate Allen, WaterStart’s executive director. “The idea that $150,000-worth of sensors deferred [millions of dollars in] capital improvement work is an economic return in and of itself. This tool allows us to say ‘that pipe’s not broken, so let’s not interrupt business.’ It’s difficult to quantify that but it’s something every utility is worrying about right now.”

Listen to an in-depth interview on the Echologics pilot project with Ryan Benner of SNWA:

Podcast Episode – Echologics Pilot at SNWA

Further Positive Impacts in Southern Nevada and Beyond

Since the installation, SNWA and LVVWD have installed 54 more sensors throughout the city. Many of these new sensors are part of Echologics’ EchoShore-DX platform, which is for smaller water pipes, fewer than 16 inches in diameter. These nodes attach to caps on fire hydrants throughout the city, making for a very simple streamlined installation process. “This type of detection and monitoring allows us to plan and address problems before they become major issues,” Benner noted.

Based out of Toronto, Echologics now has two employees based in Las Vegas. While WaterStart, the state partner agency that helps to align new technologies with local water agency needs, aims to relocate enterprises to the region for economic development benefits, the Echologics story has impacts that go beyond adding jobs to the local economy.

The technology has now been deployed in numerous other markets, including Singapore, major east coast municipalities, and private water companies.

About the Echologics Technology

Echologics’ EchoShore-TX is designed for larger pipes with a minimum diameter of 16 inches. Nodes are installed in underground chambers, or secure access points, along with water mains. The nodes transmit data to an antenna and information is uploaded to a secure server. Algorithms are applied to bring accurate details with regards to the state of an underground pipe and whether or not a leak has occurred. If one exists, the system can pinpoint it very accurately.

The technology takes into account a variety of data factors and can be customized to a situation’s needs. Based on this information, a customized information interface is created, which can be integrated into existing client software programs. In the event of a leak, the platform will call, text, or email authorities.