Case Study

The Champlain Water District utilized a variety of methods, including high-resolution inline leak and air pocket inspection, transient pressure monitoring (TPM), and a structural design check to ensure a critical transmission pipe’s design was sufficient for current operational conditions.

Champlain Water District (CWD) is an award-winning regional municipal organization that supplies drinking water to 12 municipal water systems in Vermont. As the largest water supplier in the state, CWD serves approximately 75,000 residential, commercial and industrial users. CWD draws water from Lake Champlain, and three high-value water transmission mains supply water to the user municipalities. When evidence of corrosion-related breaks was revealed in nearby distribution mains, CWD became concerned that a critical metallic water main in their system could be next.


After conducting their own risk prioritization plan, Joe Duncan, Chief Engineer for CWD, and his team kept with the proactive mindset and began a transmission main asset management program.

While the transmission system is relatively “young” and had no real break history, visual feedback from crews showed distribution mains in the vicinity of the transmission mains were experiencing corrosion-related breaks and in some instances looking like “Swiss cheese”. Due to the high importance of the transmission pipeline, CWD wanted to understand its condition and forestall potential corrosion issues.

What solutions did Xylem and Champlain Water District come up with to solve this challenge? Find out and explore the results we achieved together by downloading the full case study below.


Project Highlights

Design check confirmed that the pipe design was sufficient for current loading

Acoustic monitoring identified no leaks or gas pockets

Transient monitoring revealed no harmful pressure surges

Anticipated repair funding was re-allocated to other capital work projects

Project Details

SmartBall acoustic leak detection
Transient pressure monitoring
Strucutral analysis
Pipe Material
Ductile Iron (DIP)
Inspection Length
1.8 miles (2.9 km)
24 inches (600mm)
Transmission Type


Metallic Pipeline Condition Assessment


On Thursday May 17, thought-leaders, leading utilities, and other industry experts, came together for Xylem’s Modernizing Water Infrastructure Workshop in Laurel, MD. Like Infrastructure Week, the event served as a platform for innovators to connect, discuss, and inspire water industry professionals to solve the problems associated with managing water infrastructure. If you were unable to attend, here are some of the highlights of the day.

From Manure To Modern

The morning session focused on utilities, and began with a keynote presentation from industry visionary, George Hawkins, who provided an energetic analogy on how the manure crisis of the 1800s compares to our current water crisis. While the common person only saw the problem of horse manure, the engineers of the 1800s saw the potential for change and created the car, which eliminated the problem while increasing productivity and reducing costs. That’s what we, as an industry, need to focus on as we modernize water infrastructure — seeing the potential for greatness and improvement through innovation.

Hawkins went on to discuss how we report efficiency. If everything is measured in a productivity approach, seeking additional funding becomes easier. Money has gone farther than ever before in the water infrastructure industry because of the advancements in technology that allow us to work more efficiently and accurately. People are prepared to invest in something that matters to them, especially when they understand that the current monies are going further, and you can prove it. Listen to part of Hawkins’ presentation:

100 Years of Continuous Improvement

Following Hawkins’ passionate keynote address, we heard from Glen Diaz, Division Manager of Water/Wastewater Systems Assessment at WSSC. As WSSC (Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission) celebrates their 100-year anniversary, Diaz reflected on the advancements in technology through the years.

Even in the past 10 years, things have greatly improved in the water industry. Diaz cited the 66” water main break in Bethesda, MD in 2008 and how current technology can aid in preventing future incidents. Diaz went on to discuss how most PCCP failures are due to broken wires and how noisy pipes are typically problem pipes.

However, now, WSSC workers receive mobile alerts, through the implementation of Pure Technologies AFO system, as soon as wire breaks occur so they can address any cause for concern. This system has already helped WSSC avert 20 failure events to date, a $21 million dollar savings on the conservative side! See Diaz’s presentation here:

With Challenge, Comes Major Opportunity

After hearing from WSSC, we heard from Jody Caldwell, Asset Management Director for Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), on building an asset management program from the (under) ground up.

Caldwell began with an overview of some of the organizational challenges GLWA is experiencing being a relatively new utility. He talked about the process GLWA went through putting together a 10-year strategic roadmap focused on continuous improvement to overcome the challenges and build a utility for the future. Caldwell went on to discuss GLWA’s pipeline risk management strategy, which uses a quantitative, risk-based analysis to drive decisions. This tiered approach allows them to easily calculate their risk return on investment and ultimately, become a best-in-class pipeline management system. Catch the end of Caldwell’s presentation, as well as the Q&A session.

Extreme Preparation for Extreme Weather

After a brief networking break, there was a roundtable discussion that focused on how leading utilities dealt with the extreme weather conditions this past January. The roundtable featured (from left to right) Joseph Mantua, Deputy General Manager Operations at WSSC; Carlos A. Espinosa, Chief of the Office Of Asset Management at Baltimore City Department of Public Works; and Buddy Morgan, General Manager at Montgomery Water Works (Alabama). Who said the South doesn’t experience cold weather.

The discussion began with the question, “Were there particular pipe materials you found to be problematic during the extreme winter, and if so, what were they?” For the City of Montgomery, AL, cast iron mains had the most problems. Baltimore City was no different, reporting that 98% of the water main breaks were in cast iron pipes, the majority of which were 12” or smaller. WSSC confirmed the cast iron trend, with the majority of breaks occurring in 6 or 8 inch diameter pipes.

In order to prepare for next winter, the utilities agreed for the need to ensure that all their equipment is in working order ahead of time, and have conversations with their crews and contractors to make sure they’re prepared to respond, and recognize the need for additional support services and how to best utilize them. Additionally, the panel agreed that social media played a crucial role in real-time communications with customers, aiding them in being proactive with the media, and helping to communicate status updates. Watch the beginning portion of the roundtable discussion:

The discussion moved on to how to keep employees engaged during extreme weather conditions. Aside from the generous overtime benefits, WSSC brought hot meals to workers, while Alabama Water Works limited hours per week to 65 with 24 hours off before coming back. They also held celebratory cookouts once the weather warmed up.

Be Best-In-Class

After lunch, the afternoon sessions focused on technologies and management best practices. Pure’s very own Mike Higgins, Senior Vice President, Americas, talked about buried infrastructure philosophies utilities can use to manage their most valuable assets. Mike kicked-off his presentation by sharing statistics from the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Following these eye-opening numbers, Higgins shared his insights on success for professionals in the water industry.
Key questions utilities need to answer include:

  • Why do you want to assess your pipeline?
  • What are the goals for your project or program?


Typically, the answers should focus on one or more of the following areas:

1) Averting pipeline failure
2) Reducing pipeline risk
3) Extending the life of an asset
4) Increasing sustainability
5) Optimizing CAPEX/TOTEX (capital/total expenditure)

Higgins then shared his secret recipe for the 10 key ingredients to be a best-in-class utility:
1) Focus on operations excellence
2) Coordinate with all key stakeholders
3) Perform necessary Public Relations
4) Create a clearly defined team across departments and disciplines
5) Always aspire towards total pipeline management
6) Prepare for emergencies, they will occur
7) Be opportunistic
8) Continue to innovate
9) Understand limitations of innovative approaches
10) Keep your boots on the ground (maximize the amount of inspected pipe)
He concluded his presentation talking about the importance of monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) and keeping senior leadership engaged. Watch Higgins’ presentation:

The 4th Industrial Revolution

Richard Loeffler IV, Client Solutions Architect at Emnet, then reminded us that the number one criteria for where cities locate is the access to water. Loeffler also stated that we are in the midst of a 4th industrial revolution—IoT (Internet of Things) is changing the way we live, work, and play, and is transforming the fundamental economic cost structure of water and related civic works.

He used the example of South Bend, IN, to illustrate just how effective IoT and RTDSS (real-time decision support systems) can be. Ultimately, it’s all about environmental stewardship — it’s not just about saving money, but about doing the right thing for the world that we live in. View Loeffler’s presentation:

Smart Water

Following Loeffler’s informative presentation, Bridget Berardinelli, VP Product Management And Continuous Improvement for Xylem, stated how smart meters and applying analytics can help utilities generate real results. Berardinelli began by explaining how Sensus develops advanced technology solutions that enable the intelligent use of critical resources.

She covered Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and explained how to leverage it in order to increase operational efficiencies and improve scalability and flexibility. By delivering machine learning and analytics using a programmatic approach, Sensus is able to inform operational interventions that transform how water utilities operate. View her presentation:

Our Newest Solution

Concluding Berardinelli’s presentation, we heard from Pure Technologies Area Regional Manager, Susan Donnally, on how to manage large diameter water transmission mains. She began her presentation with a discussion on pipeline risk prioritization, stating that using data to drive decisions is a quintessential part of moving towards a proactive asset management approach. She then dove into why pipes fail; noting that age alone is a poor indicator of pipe condition. While there is no singular technology that can identify all of the indicators of pipe deterioration, a holistic, risk-based approach can help.

Donnally then moved on to highlight some of Pure’s latest technology innovations:

  • SmartBall® – in addition to leak and gas pocket detection, the tool now provides mapping, which combines data collected during an inspection with known, aboveground locations and pipeline drawings to create a field-generated GIS map of a pipeline.
  • PipeDiver® – Pure’s free-swimming condition assessment tool is now available with video and can easily correlate the data you’re getting from electromagnetics with actual footage.


Additionally, Donnally had a huge reveal! She introduced Pure’s newest PipeDiver solution, the PipeDiver UltraTM (currently in the beta testing phase with a couple of clients), which features high-resolution wall condition information for metallic pipes, such as cast iron, ductile iron, and steel, and is as easy to deploy as the existing PipeDiver. Watch her presentation:

You’re Not Going to Start with Perfection

Vice President of PureAnalytics, Travis Wagner, gave the final presentation of the day on managing distribution systems.

He truly engaged the audience by asking attendees to raise their hands if:

  • They saw a need or value in a pipeline renewal program
  • They agreed that a 10-20% efficiency in renewal programs is OK
  • They thought customer affordability was an issue
  • They had trouble with retirements and recruiting

Not surprisingly, most hands were raised! From there, Wagner went on to urge everyone to update their approach.

Utilities need to start asking themselves the following questions:

  • What is the current state of my assets?
  • What is my required level of service?
  • Which assets are critical to sustained performance?
  • What are my best O&M and CIP investment strategies?
  • What is my best long-term funding strategy?

Wagner concluded this portion of the presentation with a quote that all utilities should follow: “You’re not going to start with perfection, the goal is to build toward becoming better.”

Next, Wagner moved on to discuss risk management, consequence probability analysis, data collection, and risk mitigation. It was truly an eye-opening presentation:

The day concluded with demonstrations of all the latest technology available to utilities, including a 108” PipeDiver, SoundPrint® AFO system, Sensus meters, Visenti software demos, not to mention some great networking.

Want to learn more about our Modernizing Water Infrastructure Workshop? Check out #H2018Workshop on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.


For this Vancouver Island community, tight deadlines, plug valves, and a rising tide were among the challenges faced during this condition assessment project.

Sometimes the catalyst for a pipeline inspection can come from an unexpected source. In this instance, the story began when it was noticed that a sewer pipe was exposed from erosion during low tide along the beach. That observation set the wheels in motion for an eventual inspection of a critical force main that services approximately 41,000 residents in both the Town of Comox and the City of Courtenay on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island.

The pipeline was installed in the early 1980s, and consists of an 8.75 km large-diameter force main that connects the City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and K’ómoks First Nation Community to the Comox Valley Water Pollution Control Centre (CVWPCC). This includes a five-kilometer portion buried in an “intertidal” foreshore section (area between high and low tide).

Over time, a section of beach eroded and exposed the line to coastal wave action (high tide hides the pipe). The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) took steps to restore the beach section where pipeline had been exposed, and began developing plans to relocate the exposed force main off the foreshore.

Island community concerned about pipeline risk of failure.

Sensitive location and potential environmental consequences strike nerve with community.

A new concept was developed that would utilize a portion of the existing force main within the foreshore but remove from service the exposed force main. Due to its sensitive location and the environmental consequences of a potential failure, the CVRD elected to complete a highly specialized pipe condition assessment on the entire length of the line to better understand the remaining service life and condition of the force main. As a result, the project timeline was tight, as CVRD needed imminent results to proceed with corrective action immediately should it be required.

The assessment challenges began from the get-go.

The inspected portion of the pipeline was built of two different pipe materials (PCCP and BWP) and three different pipe diameters (450-, 750- and 820-mm). As well, the critical line could not be taken out of service. The CVRD consultant, Associated Engineering, assisted in developing the request for proposal (RFP) process used to select Pure Technologies (Pure) to conduct the condition assessment, which included an electromagnetic inspection, structural curves, leak and gas pocket detection, and transient pressure monitoring.

Pure proposed the acoustic-based SmartBall® tool for the leak and gas pocket detection, and its free-swimming PipeDiver® inspection platform for the electromagnetic inspection of the line.

“This project had a lot of challenges, especially since the asset was so critical to the region. However Pure was able to help us understand the true condition of the line without requiring a shutdown of the critical force main, and has given us defensible information to make informed decisions in the future.”

Kris La Rose, Senior Manager Water/ Wastewater Services, Comox Valley Regional District

Pipeline alignment follows along the Vancouver Island coast.

Transient pressure monitoring used to understand surge pressures within the line.

First, transient pressure monitors were installed at the Courtney Pump Station (CPS). For more than 4 weeks, the recorded pressure data was used to understand the operational and surge pressures within the force main and their impact on the structural integrity of the pipeline.

SmartBall® technology detects and locates acoustic signature related to leaks and gas pockets.

While transient pressure data was collecting, Pure deployed its proprietary SmartBall technology, a multi-sensor tool used to detect and locate the acoustic signature related to leaks and gas pockets in pressurized pipelines.

The tool has the ability to inspect long distances in a single run, and while the SmartBall is deployed, the pipeline remains in service, limiting disruption to customers.

PipeDiver tool collects electromagnetic data regarding the pipe wall.

PipeDiver® electromagnetic technology designed to assess PCCP, BWP and metallic pipes.

In addition to utilizing the SmartBall tool, Pure chose to deploy the PipeDiver platform, a free-swimming condition assessment tool that collects electromagnetic data regarding the pipe wall, and operates while the pipeline remains in service, an important factor for the force main inspection. The tool travels with the product flow and utilizes flexible petals to navigate plug valves, tees and bends in the pipeline.

Crews had to retrieve the PipeDiver tool within a short 20-minute time window.

Tight time-frame for tool insertion and retrieval of sensor data.

Due to the criticality of the line, and a small capacity wet well at the CPS, the inspection teams had a very short time window (20 minutes) to insert the inspection tools. The small capacity wet well also meant that boosting flows was limited – if pumped too hard, the wet well would draw down and empty, and if pumped too slow, the PipeDiver tool could get lodged at the inline plug valves. (Low flow rate is not a significant problem for the SmartBall tool.) The solution was to first use the SmartBall inspection tool to test the flows in order to optimize the inspection approach for the PipeDiver run.

While the low flow rate slowed the SmartBall inspection, a forecast of rain moved up the PipeDiver run a day ahead in order to take advantage of extra flows that could be provided by the wet weather. The tool also had to navigate a series of 90-degree bends and a plug valve with a small port width in the pump station pipe.

Tracking the tools along the beach was fraught with potential for problems. Inspection crews needed to monitor the tidal forecasts in order to access the tracking sensors during the tide ebb, which meant a short window to retrieve the sensor data.

In spite of the challenges and risk, the dynamic four-day inspection proved successful, and went off without a hitch. The Pure Technologies crew and CVRD operators worked very well together, and their collaborative efforts ensured that this important project was successfully completed.

Damp weather didn’t dampen the inspection ingenuity of the team.

Data analysis indicated no electromagnetic distress on inspected pipes.

Based on the inspection data, Pure analysts identified zero (0) leaks, one (1) acoustic anomaly associated with trapped gas, five (5) acoustic anomalies characteristic of transient gas and two (2) acoustic anomalies associated with entrained gas. In particular, gas pockets are of significant concern in force mains, as concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas within wastewater may be subsequently converted to sulfuric acid by bacteria in the slime layer on the pipe wall.  This may cause corrosion and eventual breakdown of the pipe’s exposed surface.

The results also showed no indication of electromagnetic distress on the inspected pipes, which was good news, in spite of the corrosive salt water environment.

Overall, the CVRD was pleased with the inspection results, as they were able to understand the condition of the pipeline and make an informed decision for capital improvements. The project demonstrates how the region uses actionable data to effectively manage their finances and risk, while continuing to provide the community with a safe and reliable delivery of wastewater.


Georgia Road Sign

Unlike many large, well-funded municipalities, smaller mid-sized communities often lack the financial resources to conduct proactive inspections on their buried infrastructure. Generally it’s a common situation prevalent across much of the United States.

For this reason, when several medium-sized Georgia communities were provided state funding for an inspection and condition assessment on critical sections of their water pipelines, they jumped at the opportunity to have actionable information about their actual pipeline condition.

A baseline condition inspection helps operators make defensible decisions

The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) facilitates programs that conserve and protect Georgia’s energy, land and water resources. In this instance, GEFA provided technical assistance funding for seven mid-sized communities to perform condition assessment on large diameter lines, which for these communities, ranged from 8-inch polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to 24-inch ductile iron pipes.

Pure Technologies was retained to perform condition assessment work for seven (7) Georgia communities, which included Marietta Board of Lights and Water, Paulding County, Haralson County, City of Dublin, City of Valdosta, Spalding County, and Coweta County—whose populations ranged from 10,000 to 100,000.

For the most part, Pure performed a SmartBall® leak and gas pocket inspection and Transient Pressure Monitoring with Fatigue Analysis on the potable water pipelines for the subject communities.

In addition, Pure was also retained to deploy a SmartBall® Pipe Wall Assessment (PWA) on the ductile iron mains for the City of Valdosta Utilities Department and the Marietta Board of Lights and Water.

PWA data

SmartBall PWA technology is used to evaluate metallic pipelines by detecting and measuring the changing levels of the magnetic field, which is related to the stress in the pipe wall. As a screening tool, PWA technology provides an indication of pipe sections exhibiting higher levels of stress, which can be used as a first stage of pipeline condition assessment to help make informed decisions on higher resolution investigations, inspection, data collection and subsequent management or rehabilitation.

SmartBall tool chosen for its ease of use and sensitivity to small leaks

The SmartBall tool was chosen as an inspection platform for its sensitivity to small leaks, minimal pipeline modifications required for insertion and extraction and ability to inspect long distances in one deployment. The free-swimming, acoustic-based SmartBall tool is inserted into the flow of a pipeline, traverses the pipeline, and is captured and extracted at a point downstream.

SmartBall inside a pipe with a net

During inspection, the SmartBall tool’s location is tracked at known points along the alignment to correlate the inspection data with specific locations. As the SmartBall tool approaches a leak, the acoustic signal will increase and crescendo at the point when the tool passes the leak.

Deploying the SmartBall tool allowed each inspection to take place while the mains remained in service, a benefit much appreciated by the communities.

“This was an excellent opportunity to offer mid-sized communities in Georgia with a non-destructive internal inspection of critical pipes within areas where traditional methods may not able to collect this important information. Pure provided very professional service to work with the Utilities and help develop a specific plan to acquire this valuable data.”

Larry Lewison, NRW Analyst, Consultant

Inspection not without its challenges

In general, for most of these smaller communities, condition assessment was a novel concept, which meant lots of communication between Pure and the utilities. Mid-sized utilities, understandably, are often hamstrung by a lack of as-built drawings, geographic information systems (GIS) or other connection and appurtenances information on their pipeline network.

In the end, based on Pure’s many years of inline inspection experience and expertise, obstacles were overcome and the overall inspection program was a positive learning experience for all.

Results from cumulative 11.7 miles of inspection

Immediately after each inspection, the data was downloaded from the SmartBall tool, verified for quality and sent to Pure Technologies for review by the analysis team.

Based on the acoustic results of all the SmartBall inspections, three (3) true leaks and zero (0) acoustic anomalies characteristic of gas pockets were found on a cumulative distance of 11.73 miles of pipe inspected. For the city of Valdosta, which included a PWA inspection, Pure identified 30 specific pipes as having anomalies indicative of stress. For the Marietta Board of Lights and Water, Pure detected 61 stress anomalies along the pipe wall. This indicates a 22 percent anomaly rate, which is average compared to historical data on similar pipelines.

In addition, Pure also performed fatigue analysis for all PVC pipes, and no immediate concerns were noted.

The results indicate that the assessed mains are generally in serviceable condition, and gave the Georgia communities confidence in the overall health their systems, with no need for immediate rehabilitation, except for the three leaks that warranted attention. This process allows the communities to develop a sustainable long-term strategy for managing their critical buried assets.

Insertion and extraction sites