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Case Study

Waternet, The Netherlands

The Netherlands faces unique challenges with their underground pipe networks due to their proximity to numerous dykes that regulate water levels.

Because pipe failures can lead to drastic consequences for Dutch infrastructure, Waternet undertook a leak detection program for three major pipelines that pass various critical infrastructure including dykes, motorways and airport runways.

Extensive testing was done by officials and Pure Technologies prior to the inspection to ensure the technology could offer a comprehensive leak assessment of the pipeline’s condition.

Project Details

SmartBall® leak and gas pocket inspection
Pipe Material
Inspection Length
195 km (121 miles)
1200mm-1500mm (48-60 inch)
Transmission Type

Project Highlights


of pipelines inspected


leaks located


leaks verified

Risk mitigated on critical pipeline
Most of the Netherlands is situated under sea level, and a large system of dykes protects the land from rising water, while also connecting villages and cities. Water pipelines are often laid in close proximity to the dykes, meaning burst pipes would have devastating e­ffects on the road infrastructure and the surrounding communities.

Today, the aging dyke system is eroding the pipelines foundation causing stress and increasing the likelihood of failures. As a result of several incidents with failing or leaking pipelines in the vicinity of dykes, their owners issued a decree that required water utilities to prove the integrity of its buried assets. Waternet, the regional public water authority for Amsterdam, identified several pipelines of particular concern where a small leak from a pipeline could impact dyke integrity and a risk analysis discovered areas of pipe weakness. Based on these results, authorities determined that further testing in the form of inline leak detection should be performed.

Before embarking on inline leak detection, local officials required several rounds of extensive testing of the proposed technology to demonstrate e­ffectiveness in detecting and locating small leaks in the pipeline. In addition, since the scope of inspection included approximately 180 km of concrete pipelines, the leak detection technology had to demonstrate the ability to inspect long sections of pipe for the project to be most e­ffective.

Waternet partnered with Pure Technologies to perform inline inspections on three separate pipelines.

The SmartBall® leak detection tool was chosen to assess the integrity of the pipelines and to find leaks along the length of the pipe. The SmartBall tool is a free-flowing leak detection platform that operates while the pipeline remains in service. It is capable of completing long inspections in a single deployment and is equipped with an acoustic sensor that identifies acoustic anomalies associated with leaks and air pockets.

Typically inserted through an existing valve, it travels with the water flow recording the acoustic environment within the line. The SmartBall tool is then removed by either deploying a net at a predetermined extraction point or at another discharge point of the pipeline. The data is stored on the device and analyzed upon completion of the inspection. It is able to travel through long sections of pipe gathering approximately 18 hours of data, making it the ideal solution for the long pipelines of the Waternet leak detection program.

Calibration tests were done to conform to the strict requirements implemented by the dyke owners who wanted clear indications on the lower leak detection limit specific to the composition of the pipe. A calibration stack was developed and extensive tests were performed, simulating leaks to create a calibration curve for various leak sizes. The tests proved SmartBall could detect the leaks smaller than the threshold set by the dyke owners.

Pure Technologies performed SmartBall inspections for Waternet along the WRK pipelines. These pipelines run mainly through rural farmland but also cross through critical dyke systems.

The first portion of the inspection began in 2013 when 146 kilometres of pipeline was broken into eight lengthy inspections. In 2014 the remaining 49 kilometres were inspected. Three leaks were found and verified during the inspection of the entire 195 kilometres of pipeline.

Pure Technologies worked closely with Waternet to fulfill the comprehensive requirements of the leak detection program required by the utility. The importance the dyke system to the protection of the country’s infrastructure and communities mean the integrity of the pipelines must be maintained. The inline leak detection program gave Waternet the necessary information to fulfill their commitment to the dyke owners, and help extend the life of these critical pipelines.