United Utilities is one of the largest UK operators of water systems, a FTSE 100 company that provides around two billion litres of water per day, through 40,000 kilometres of water mains, to around seven million people in the North West. It also manages water networks such as Dwr Cymru in Wales, and others around the world. With so much water in the pipeline, it is little wonder that keeping track of it – and making sure it isn’t going to waste – is a tough job that can be helped greatly by having the right equipment to hand.
Paul Parr is the East Region Leakage Planner for the company, responsible for the planning, monitoring and performance management of his division – currently comprising 106 staff tasked with maintaining and improving the efficient supply of potable water to the region. As a part of his responsibilities, Paul is required to determine what equipment can best aid the staff in performing their jobs.
Here we will be looking at how he and the company make use of the latest advances in water management technology to keep things flowing in the right direction.
Over the years, Paul and his division have built up a strong relationship with Halma Water Management, and the dialogue between the companies has been greatly beneficial to both parties. By listening to the input and feedback from the customer, HWM has identified and implemented fixes and features that were specifically desired, thus enabling them to provide a better service and product.
When recently, for example, it was decided that an upgrade to the existing noise logging system was needed, although all the devices on the market were trialled and tested, it was the Permalog+ that was eventually chosen. It compared favourably with the other loggers tried in terms of performance, whilst offering excellent after sales support and value for money. In his own words:
“Efficiency is key in our jobs. The new Permalog+ units are already proving their worth with the installation teams, who are reporting far quicker patrol times – allowing them to conduct more work.
“Halma Water Management has listened to us and the new Permalog+ has incorporated a lot of the additional functions we required: the new units can have their batteries changed, they feature wireless connectivity, and the patrolling is quicker. The major bonus though is the Aqualog utility, providing a graph of the data for instant analysis and fine-tuning of the loggers – letting them do tasks which just couldn’t be done before. As the name indicates, it is proving to be a big ‘plus’ with the teams.”
The Permalog+ is the latest incarnation in the range of acoustic noise-loggers from Palmer, incorporating numerous improvements and enhancements to functionality, usability and versatility. The units that United Utilities are employing are the traditional ‘drive-by’ versions, which use a new PDA-based Bluetooth Patroller unit, replete with integral Aqualog noiselogging mode, customisable programming, radio connectivity and historical data storage for comparisons over time. Paul also revealed that besides their everyday patrolling uses, “The new Permalogs are also being installed on a larger project in Liverpool. We are using these to try and reduce the time that is takes to locate leaks on the system by having the loggers permanently installed in the area.”
The company is also at present using MicroCorr Digital correlators, MAST step test systems, Leakfinders, Xmic ground microphones, PRV controllers and have just installed 1500 PD10 meter pulse discs, all from HWM, and has just completed trials and begun to install the latest HWM Hydrins insertion probes. Always looking for ways to become more efficient and to optimise their working methodologies, the use of new technology can have a huge impact in successfully achieving these goals; as Paul succinctly put it: “New technology has enabled us to become more efficient whilst giving us the ability to better pinpoint the more difficult leaks. They [HWM] have listened to what we need and developed products accordingly.”
The correlators, ground mics, Permalogs and MASTs are used by the leakage detection staff on both proactive and reactive detection duties throughout the company. The PRV Controller units on their Pressure Management Valves control pressure throughout the network and the PD10s help register the flow on the District Meters to help in identifying areas for the leak detection resources to target. The Hydrins probes are being brought in to monitor upstream losses and leakage on the large diameter trunk mains.
Discussing the broader use of products, Paul again stressed the benefits of the close working relationship with HWM: “We can discuss new developments and products that we need with them, and how they can be of benefit to us. For instance, as a direct result of our discussions with Jonathan Smith [UK Key Account Manager, Halma Water Management], a car charging facility has been introduced for the correlators, and the PDA’s we were already using for other tasks are now being used by some with the new MicroCorr 7 correlator – allowing less kit to be carried, with lower numbers of units needing to be purchased and repaired. The correlators are used every day and every night by our teams and they love them.”
As an example of how these technologies directly impact the customer, Paul referred to the Leakfinder. Used to detect customer-side leakage, the product is able to pinpoint a leak to within inches on a customer’s property. This means that only one excavation is needed to repair the problem, minimising disruption both physically and in terms of time taken – which can only be a good thing. For the staff, the benefits of using up-to-date equipment are typically similar with respect to increased efficiency, though it can also actually enable their jobs to be performed to a higher standard not previously attainable. Recently, the Permalog+ has been used to locate two leaks that simply could not be found using conventional methods due to the low frequency of the noise generated – these had been long-term leaks, and with their repair the areas have been brought down to their lowest ever leakage levels.
On a final note, Paul considered what would happen should the company be suddenly deprived of their new technology:
“Though we could still operate with the old equipment, everything would take that much longer and be that less efficient. We still use the older Permalogs as they do a very good job, the difference is the speed at which it allow us to operate, which in turn makes us more efficient and allows us to do more work in a shorter space of time. The teams also have more confidence in finding what they are looking for with the graph functionality, letting them look at the frequency of the recorded noise and match this with the filters on the correlator to give a more accurate pinpoint.
“Having said that, the first thing I would do is probably stamp around and pull out what little hair I have left, before shouting a lot down the phone at HWM about why they’d taken it away”. Fortunately, there is no apparent reason why this should happen, so we can assume that Paul, his hair, and HWM will all continue to coexist peacefully for some time yet.