Texas Water Authority Manages Assets With Electromagnetic Inspection

Historical pipe installation

An archived photo from installation of the pipeline five decades ago.

When your pipeline operates well for five decades, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security about the condition of your buried assets. Out of sight, out of mind.

Then, in an instant, that mindset can change.

For Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA), that wakeup call happened after dealing with two unexpected failures in quick succession earlier this year. The failure repercussions quickly introduced CRMWA to Pure Technologies, a leader in technologies for the inspection, monitoring and management of critical infrastructure.

CRMWA provides water to 11 member cities in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains region, near the cities of Amarillo and Lubbock. The water authority, which serves more than 500,000 people, draws water from Lake Meredith through a 358-mile aqueduct system completed in 1966. Comprised of approximately 55 miles of non-cylinder prestressed concrete pipe (PCP) along with approximately 300 miles of reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) and bar wrapped concrete cylinder pipe (BWP), the main aqueduct can deliver up to 118 million gallons of water daily to the 11 member cities.

Digging out failed pipes

One of the pipe failures that caused a blowout.

December 30: First blowout ends flow to 9 cities

The first indication of a problem occurred with a pipe rupture on Dec. 30, 2015, which abruptly ended the flow of water to nine of CRMWA’s member cities, leaving the cities to use precious reserves or their own water.

With the initial failure of a 72-inch (1830-millimeter) diameter non cylinder prestressed concrete pipe (PCP), the water agency lost millions of gallons of water, forcing a temporary pipeline shutdown to make immediate repairs.

January 5: Soon after the first blowout was repaired, an adjacent pipe began leaking

Five days later, on Jan. 5, CRMWA completed repair number one, and started to refill the system when an adjacent pipe began leaking.

This new leak lead to an emergency mobilization from Pure at the request of CRMWA. Pure’s condition assessment technologies have helped clients prevent more than 2,300 failures worldwide, resulting in billions of dollars in savings, and hundreds of billions of gallons in water savings. Pure has also located more than 4,000 leaks on water mains using its leak detection technologies.

Broken concrete pipe exposing the internal anatomy

One of the EM anomalies verified and excavated for repairs.

January 5-6: Pure mobilized to begin a manned electromagnetic survey

The same day, a crew of three mobilized from Dallas to the failure site near Amarillo. The purpose was to conduct a non-destructive evaluation using Pure’s electromagnetic inspection technology on the pipe immediately adjacent to the damaged sections. Over the next two days, Pure scanned 8,822 feet with internal manned electromagnetics.

January 8: Based on expedited EM analysis, Pure informed CRMWA of two large anomalies in two pipes near the first failure.  Over the next two days CRMWA completed the second leak repair, and hoped for more time to conduct a third repair where Pure called a large electromagnetic anomaly.

January 11: After Pure demobilized from the job site, the client turned on the pipeline, and after flowing for 12 hours, a second failure occurred, in the area located where Pure’s EM analysis indicated a potential problem.

January 12-13: Over the next few days, Pure verified five electromagnetic anomalies in three pipes near the failure site while CRMWA completed additional repairs. Based on the verified results, CRMWA requested a total of approximately 47 miles of manned EM inspection, which was completed by mid-March.

“The electromagnetic inspection was well worth the cost. Now we know the condition of our pipelines. We know the locations of our problems. The scan revealed 16 pipes where corrosion had put the lines at risk for developing additional blowouts. Those have been repaired much more cheaply and quickly than the costs of fixing blowouts.”

Kent Satterwhite

General Manager, CRMWA

Preparing the pipeline paid off by finishing ahead of schedule

CRMWA worked around the clock leading up to the inspections to dewater and prepare the pipeline for the internal inspections. The hard work paid off well, with no holdups on the inspection progress. The excellent planning by CRMWA and Pure allowed the inspection to wrap up ahead of schedule. Once the internal inspection was completed, Pure was also able to perform a destructive calibration on a pipe section which CRMWA provided, which was helpful for the analysis of the data collected. CRMWA was also able to repair 16 pipes that were very close to failure as identified by the electromagnetic surveys.

Sometimes one unexpected pipeline problem can compel long term planning and action, as it did with CRMWA. The Water Authority now has a defined plan to assess the condition of their pipeline, giving them the confidence to move forward with greater assurance and peace-of-mind.

Man with fish inside pipe

After a long day,  Pure and CRMWA celebrated with a fish dinner, caught while draining the raw water line.

Fish inside a cooler