Utilities can save their communities substantial amounts of money, reduce the need for unaffordable rate increases or financing arrangements, and improve the environmental sustainability of their operations – all while maintaining and enhancing system control.

Around the world, critical valves are in poor repair, or even inoperable. When critical valves fail, managers have effectively lost control of their system, increasing vulnerability to water main breaks or any other system hazard. Once valves have failed, utilities have traditionally sought to replace them, often at great cost, both in terms of time and expense.

But what if there were another way? It turns out there is a far more economical, less risky, and more sustainable option: preventative maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation. High performing utilities are turning away from the wasteful practice of replacing valves that can be restored to full function, instead engaging experts in asset renewal to extend the life of those assets at a substantially lower cost.

This white paper will highlight:

  • identifying the true cost of large valve replacements
  • understanding the cost savings of a repair vs replace strategy
  • the benefits of performing routine critical valve assessments
  • what to look for in a valve assessment partner

Case Study

In order to avoid the cost associated with large valve replacement, the city of Grand Rapids engaged Xylem to assess the true condition of 20 large valves and determine if they could be rehabilitated or repaired instead.

The City of Grand Rapids is the second largest water system in Michigan and delivers clean drinking water to the Grand Rapids area using Lake Michigan as its water source. The Grand Rapids Water System operates about 1,250 miles of pipelines, 31,000 system valves, and over 1,300 large system valves (16 inches and larger). Over the last few years, the operation and maintenance of the large valves had declined due to focus being placed on other critical priorities. Without a consistent exercise routine for critical valves, the utility found that many of these valves were inoperable and, as a result, began to seek funding for valve replacements.


Grand Rapids was aware of a long segment of transmission line that could not be isolated due to inoperable valves. To regain control of the line, the City replaced five large valves at an average cost of $125,000 per valve, each taking an average of one week to replace. This amount of work and cost was a wake-up call that compelled Grand Rapids to find alternate methods of rehabilitating their valve assets.

Xylem’s experience has shown that on average, 60 percent of valves in a water system are operable, meaning that 40 percent are either inoperable, not locatable, or in the wrong position. Statistically, this meant that with 1,300 valves in Grand Rapids’ system, around 500 of them could have some sort of issue. With limited information on which ones required attention and a limited capital budget for asset replacement, the City would need a more focused approach help them make repair or remediation decisions.

What solutions did Xylem and Grand Rapids 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

The City saved more than $800k by assessing and repairing infrastructure rather than replacing – a cost savings of over 90%

8 critical valves restored to full operability for less than the cost of replacing just one valve

60% of the assessed valves were working properly, allowing operational expenditures to be allocated elsewhere

Services Provided

• Valve assessment – assessed 20 large valves in the transmission system
• Valve repair – repaired and restored eight critical valves to full operability
• Valve rehabilitation – rehabilited one inoperable 36″ gate valve


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.


Case Study

The District of Columbia’s water distribution system serves 600,000 residents and 16.6 million annual visitors to the nation’s capital. Local water utility DC Water provides water and wastewater service to the region, with water distribution assets that include approximately 1,300 miles of water pipes, 1,800 miles of sewer lines, 36,000 pipeline valves and 9,300 public fire hydrants.

Project Details

Asset management

Operations improvement

Information services

Engineering support

Pipe Material
Inspection Length
4.74 km (2.9 miles)
750mm-900mm (29-35 inch)
Transmission Type

Project Highlights


Hands-on inspection of all


fire hydrants in district


Program replaces/upgrades about


most critical hydrants

Program gathers location data, operational capabilities, flow rate and maintenance

Possibly first city in U.S. to use Google Earth to display hydrant location & maintenance information


Almost half of DC Water’s fire hydrants were antiquated units made at a local prison foundry that closed decades ago, causing problems with their incompatible hose outlet threads, nonstandard hydrant components and the lack of any source for replacement parts.

The other half of DC Water’s fire hydrants included about 24 different hydrant makes and models, but only two of those hydrant types met approved industry standards. Further, the utility was unsure of the precise location of many of their hydrants. They had no reliable information about their maintenance history, their operational flow rate–or even if they worked at all.

Several high-profile incidents involving inoperable fire hydrants at the scenes of major fires in the Washington DC area accelerated a planned DC Water project to inspect, operate and assess the mechanical condition and operational reliability of all the hydrants located within the District of Columbia. To help lead the program, DC Water partnered with the industry leader in hydrant management solutions, Wachs Water Services.


The project called for a hands-on inspection of all 9,300 public fire hydrants within the District of Columbia, replacing or upgrading about 3,000 of the most critical fire hydrants and installing about 600 new hydrants each year.

The project also required gathering and recording vital hydrant location data, and operational capabilities and flow rate, maintenance history, and current functional status into DC Water’s GIS (geographical information systems) and CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems) so the vital information could be accessed quickly during an emergency response.


The Wachs Water Services team began with an analysis of the utility’s existing records, maps and documentation to help find “cannot locate” hydrants and their connecting valves and pipelines, and enter the correct location data into the utility’s GIS system.

Teamed with DC Water employees, Wachs Water Services field crews methodically located, operated, and flow tested the thousands of fire hydrants and isolation valves, repairing or replacing them as needed, and “color banding” the hydrants to serve as a visual indicator so firefighters are instantly aware of the water flow capacity of a particular hydrant.

As the field technicians operated each hydrant, they also recorded its precise GPS location, and collected critical data describing the operational status of each hydrant, including manufacturer, model, installation data, repair history, flow rate and number of turns to open. This hydrant attribute data was entered into DC Water’s GIS system for quick system-wide retrieval and analysis.

DC Water became one the first US cities to use Google Earth to publicly display hydrant location and maintenance information. DC Water has become a national example of how to comprehensively upgrade and renew an aging water distribution system to better serve the public.

City of Baltimore

Over the past decade, the City of Baltimore has seen vast improvements in control point operability and system sustainability of its water distribution assets. The report card is looking better each year.

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works shoulders a big responsibility. The Department provides 265 million gallons of water daily to 1.8 million people in the greater Baltimore region, and maintains 3,400 miles of water mains, 19,000 fire hydrants and more than 64,000 pipeline valves.

For more than ten years, Wachs Water Services has partnered with Baltimore and surrounding counties to deliver GIS data, coax non-functioning valves and hydrants back to operational life and reduce the probability of failure. The ongoing program is a showcase for Wachs Water Services to demonstrate how its unique approach, field experience and mechanical advantage could give Baltimore new confidence in managing their water distribution assets.

Broken water mains propel utility to investigate distribution system

Many of Baltimore’s water distribution system assets are decades old, with some pipes dating back 100 years and more. Since 2000, large-diameter pipeline failures were occurring more frequently, resulting in extreme flooding in some urban areas. Emergency response was often delayed because of difficult to locate or non-operational valves.

The water utility decided it was time to locate, assess and repair or replace the critical pipeline valves within their distribution system. They turned to the industry leader in valve management solutions, Wachs Water Services, a division of Pure Technologies.

WachsWater Workers

Valve management delivers operational intelligence to mitigate risk

Collaborating closely with field crews from Baltimore Public Works, Wachs Water Services technicians immediately went to work to locate and test the thousands of pipeline valves and water assets within the distribution system.

Valve management involves integrating field-verified valve status details into the GIS system, the vital “operational intelligence” utilities need in mitigating operational risk, and accelerating emergency response to major pipeline failures.

After physically locating each valve, Wachs Water Services field technicians recorded the valves’ precise GPS position, operational and service history, and current functional status into Baltimore GIS (geographical information systems) and CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems), ensuring the vital asset information could be easily accessed during an emergency response.

Damaged or questionable valves were expertly serviced, replaced or updated to verify compliance with industry specifications, and Baltimore field crews were trained to deal with operating valves to respond to an array of emergency situations.

Damaged valve

Valve training pays dividends sooner than expected

The emergency valve training paid dividends much sooner than expected. In September 2009, a 72-inch PCCP water main suffered a catastrophic failure near a busy Baltimore street intersection, flooding the area with 175,000 gallons per minute. Field crews from Baltimore Public Works, Wachs Water Services and emergency service workers converged on the scene as water submerged residential areas and threatened 6,000 homes.

Working closely with Baltimore Public Works, Wachs Water Services provided detailed maps and plans for shutting down the broken pipeline main, including information on all valves involved, and the specific pattern to execute the shutdown in a manageable way.

The utility knew exactly what crews to deploy, where to deploy them, and what they needed when they arrived on location, successfully shutting down all pipelines feeding the ruptured main in a fraction of the time.

Baltimore proves its commitment to municipal water stewardship

Tremendous progress has been made by Baltimore City and surrounding counties, and they have set industry benchmarks for control point operability and system sustainability. In the ongoing program, more than 64,000 valves and 22,000 fire hydrants have been GPS-located and mapped over more than 2,000 miles of mains.

The City has earned high marks, not only for its diligence, but also for its commitment to municipal water stewardship.

Tech analysing data
Hydrant inspection

This large Midwest utility maintains and operates water collection, treatment, and distribution systems, as well as wastewater collection and treatment systems and stormwater management systems for its residential, business and wholesale customers in the region.

To ensure the accessibility and quality of water services to meet the growing needs of the region, the Utility needed to conduct a complete assessment of their water distribution system.  The limited internal resources and need for quick results were more than the department could handle on their own.

To kick-start the process, and ensure success of the project, the Utility needed to identify the most economical solution that would provide the greatest impact on their distribution system in the shortest period of time.

The long-term project called for highly specialized valve maintenance expertise, equipment and technology, and the Utility elected to partner with the industry leader in valve management solutions, Wachs Water Services.

Inserting tools for inspection

Collecting valve status information critical for improving quality of water service

Because of its experience in the field, Wachs Water Services (WWS) was chosen to collect valve status information to assist in operational planning and speed of response, with the ultimate goal to improve the quality of water services in the growing region.

The comprehensive project called on WWS to dedicate an onsite team for the 5-year project, which included water valve assessment, mapping, and data management – including fire hydrant assessments.

During the course of the project, more than 35,000 valves were accessed, assessed and repaired where necessary. During these inspections, WWS discovered almost 2,000 valves with packing leaks, which were subsequently corrected by snugging up the valve to the seal.

Service included raising buried valves to grade to provide easy access

In addition to locating and assessing the valves in the distribution system, the WWS team took 1,065 valves buried in asphalt and raised these to grade in order to provide easy access and shut off during an emergency. Additionally, 5,387 valves buried in non-asphalt environments (dirt-grass-gravel) were raised to grade and are now accessible.

Almost 2,000 damaged or missing operating nuts on valves were repaired or replaced.  This represented by far the largest number of operating nut anomalies that WWS had ever encountered in the field.

This was due, in part, to the use of over-sized tooling.  While some of the operating nuts were over-sized, those that were not (the majority) were damaged by the over-sized tools.

As part of the condition assessment and repairs, more than 10,000 valve boxes were vacuumed and cleared of debris so the valves could be accessed and assessed for damage/need of repairs.

Finally, more than 7,400 fire hydrants were accessed, with a least 20 percent requiring some repairs. Hydrants were also pressure tested, and those with a low-flow reading were corrected.

Inspecting valves


System operability increased from 55 percent to 84 percent

Overall, the system operability increased from 55 percent to 84 percent, which added up to an increase of 53 percent more valves now accessible and operable than before the assessment.

The Utility’s GIS was updated to increase the accuracy and include additional attribute information. In addition, WWS provided the Utility with assistance on numerous construction shut-downs for the duration of the contract.

The operating nut repairs eliminated more than 1,300 dead ends caused by inoperable valves, a solution that increased water quality, increased fire-fighting capacity, and corrected system pressure problems.

Wachs Water Service also performed a leak sounding pilot on all the valves accessed during the first 5 months of the program.

Overall, tremendous progress has been made, and the Utility has set industry benchmarks for control point operability and system sustainability.

Wachs Water Services – Valve Restoration from Pure Technologies on Vimeo.

For large urban cities, one of the quickest ways to realize an investment return from their network of underground assets is to inventory the water distribution system and assess the overall condition of valves and fire hydrants.

This progressive major southeast U.S. city recognized the value of getting a comprehensive handle on the condition and usability of its aging control assets. The city, which operates a complex water network for nearly one million customers, recently completed a long-term asset management program for its valves and hydrants.

Wachs Water Services, in a joint venture with Brindley Pieters & Associates (WWS-BPA Joint Venture), recently completed the latest phase of this city’s Asset Assessment Program, providing the city with an immediate return on investment by maximizing usability of control assets. The water distribution system consists of approximately 59,000 valves and 24,000 fire hydrants.

Open Hydrant with water flowing

The program also ensured future savings through the development of a geographic information system (GIS) database that contains necessary water system transmission and distribution assets records and global positioning system (GIS) locations to meet water utility asset management and maintenance requirements. The program is projected to save the city a minimum of $77 million over the next ten years.

Estimated $77 million savings from increased control and enhanced management

The $77 million in savings, resulting from the increased control and enhanced management, will be realized even if the city makes no further investments in their system.  This represents three dollars ROI for every dollar invested.  With continued preventative maintenance and further enhancements to their GIS data program, the city could potentially save an additional $65 million over the same 10 year period.

“Every dollar that the utility has invested into this program delivers three dollars of tangible savings from quantifiable system operability improvements and consistent control…”

“Managing an aging water network requires a results-driven approach that achieves both immediate system improvements and long-term sustainability. Every dollar that the utility has invested into this program delivers three dollars of tangible savings from quantifiable system operability improvements and consistent control,” summarized Cliff Wilson, President of Wachs Water Services.

The Valve and Hydrant Asset Assessment Program met two objectives.  The first restored maximum usability to the distribution system, providing immediate system improvements.  The second developed a comprehensive and accurate GIS database, ensuring long-term sustainability.
Valve and Hydrant Asset Assessment

Good news: 95 percent of valves could be located, accessed, and operated within 15 minutes

WWS-BPA evaluated and digitized 82,412 total assets (59,020 valves and 23,392 hydrants).   This process revealed that the city had an initial valve usability of only 27.9 percent.  This low level of control asset usability drastically increased response time and the impact footprint, increasing disruption to customers, increasing traffic rerouting and delays, and increasing collateral damage.   Low usability increases overall costs.

The team rehabilitated over 50,000 assets, including 43,000 valves, most during the initial field assessment.   By the end of the program, 95 percent of valves could be located, accessed, and operated within 15 minutes.

Maximizing usability minimizes costs

City residents and utility crews immediately recognized the benefits.  Field teams can identify and locate assets quickly.  Traffic delays are avoided.  Insurance claims for residents and businesses decreased.   Pre-planned construction shutdowns are more efficient.

To develop the comprehensive GIS database, the WWS-BPA team collected and digitized more than 60 attributes per valve, and over 40 attributes per hydrant, including sub-meter GPS position.  The team digitized 3000 miles of the distribution network, connecting all the assets into an accurate, accessible, and maintainable information system.  The city’s operational crews now have an accurate picture of the system, with exact locations for the control assets along with their usability.  This information is used not only to respond to emergencies, but to manage and maintain the system’s high level of control.

Wachs Water Services is proud to be a part of this project that has set industry standards for large urban cities and demonstrated that efficiencies can be increased through restoration and information rather than replacement.

Wachs Water Services recently gave the Canadian municipal water sector an impressive demonstration of how their unique approach, field experience and mechanical advantage could coax non-functioning valves back to operational life.

Truck-mounted hydraulic valve exerciser.

Wachs’ secret weapon is the TM-7, a proprietary truck-mounted hydraulic valve exerciser.

Halifax Water recently found itself in a jubilant mood after freeing up a significant amount of dollars originally earmarked for valve replacement within its capital budget.

Members of the engineering and operations department of Halifax Water delivered the good news when it was revealed that a sampling of targeted critical line valves thought to be inoperable were found to be operable, thanks to the field experience, mechanical advantage and valve exercising expertise of Wachs Water Services, a division of Pure Technologies.

Halifax Water is the first regulated water and wastewater/stormwater utility in Canada, serving more than 80,000 customers in the Halifax Regional Municipality. In October 2015, the water utility called on Wachs Water Services to conduct a pilot inspection/rehabilitation program on a series of valves, some installed in the late 1800s, along a critical stretch of large-diameter cast iron  transmission mains located within the downtown core of the port city.

Twenty seven critical line valves, one clear objective

Halifax Water set a clear objective: visit the location of critical large diameter valves, determine their status and if not working, make the valves work.

Considering the fact that a mid to large-diameter line valve buried in an urban environment could easily cost well beyond $100,000 to replace, the value in restoring function to these derelicts was very clear, notwithstanding the unit cost and operational factors related to road closures, traffic control, digging, service disruption and repaving the roads.

While Halifax Water knew these valves were critical and assumed to be seized or non-functioning, the extent of damage and repairs needed was unknown.

valve exercise results

 Considering that a large diameter line valve could easily cost beyond $100,000 to replace, Halifax Water was pleased with the valve exercise results.

Proven methods, trusted technology and the patience of a monk

With assistance provided by the operations department at Halifax Water, the team from Wachs Water Services used a combination of proven methods, experienced field staff, trusted truck-mounted hydraulic valve exerciser and practised persistence to address the City’s challenge.

Over the duration of the two-week project, 27 critical valves were assessed, 16 were found to be working and 11 were frozen shut of which 9 were returned to full operation. In one instance, it took nearly 700 foot-pounds of torque and the patience of a monk to free the stubborn valve.

In another instance, one uncooperative valve showed clear signs of extensive damage, including a missing a gearbox, operating nut, not to mention, a bent operating shaft—clearly a very dead valve.

Pete Olson Jr., Wachs Water Services project manager on the Halifax project, had no doubt on the services provided.

“We’re eternal optimists, and we love a challenge, which is why we’ll never quit on a valve… we’ll do whatever it takes to get it up and operating.”

Greater value, more confidence, convincing compliance

Halifax Water has a contingent capital replacement plan for their valves identified as non-functional or broken. For every valve made operational by Wachs, the Halifax Water realized a direct per unit cost savings.

Not only did the task free up capital replacement dollars for other tasks, the exercise gave Halifax Water  new confidence in managing their assets, as Wachs Water Services was also able to tag the valves, deliver GIS data, and update the system.

With the line valves back in operation Halifax Water was able to reduce the isolation footprint required for planned and unplanned shutdowns and better understand the hydraulics of the water system.

The project highlights the value of embracing a proactive valve assessment using a suite of best practices, field expertise and proprietary mechanical technology. Halifax Water has proven not only its diligence, but its commitment to municipal water stewardship.

This notion came to life in a North American survey conducted in 2014 and published online this year in The American Water Works Association Journal on current sustainable infrastructure practices among water and wastewater utilities.

Authored by associate professor Amy Landis, the survey found that of the 125 American utilities that responded, less than half “failed to implement some form of sustainability practice, which ranged from renewable energy to infrastructure repair to demand management. Of the respondents, only 18 percent of utilities reported publishing a sustainability policy or vision.”

Surprising results in spite of critical importance

The results are rather surprising, considering that sustainable water infrastructure is critical to providing the American public with clean and safe water. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives drinking water and wastewater infrastructure a “D” grade, which puts the infrastructure in “poor and at risk” with most of the assets approaching end of service life, some reaching the age of 100 years old or more.

For combined water and wastewater utilities, the most common selected metric to evaluate sustainability practice was “water consumption and/or water delivery efficiency” at 63 percent. Coming in second for sustainable infrastructure practice was “employ trenchless pipe repair and/or rehabilitation.”

Old main

Buried assets are approaching end of service life, some reaching the age of 100 years old or more.

Helping water utilities embrace sustainability

The good news is that it is easier today for public water utilities to move forward on the path to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Modern inline technologies and precise data analysis tools certainly help the effort.

For more than a decade, Pure Technologies has played a key role in helping progressive utilities follow through with actions to promote sustainable practices for their water and wastewater infrastructure.

Sustainable practices include helping pipeline owners optimize capital and remaining useful life as they seek to more efficiently manage their assets.

As a trusted global leader specializing in the assessment, monitoring and management of pressurized pipelines, Pure has completed structural condition assessment on more than 8,000 miles of critical water mains. This has helped utilities avoid critical pipeline failures that can be expensive to remediate and damaging to their reputation. In addition, Pure has located more than 4,000 leaks on mains using inline leak detection. Through these activities, billions of gallons have water have been saved through repaired leaks and avoided pipe failures.

Pipe Surface Inspection

By understanding the operational conditions in their system, utilities can develop a defensible plan for managing their infrastructure.

Capital savings can be invested back into the system

The numbers continue to impress. Based on Pure’s condition assessment data, we have found that 96 percent of pipe sections do not have any deterioration at all and are in “like new” condition, while less than 1 percent of pipe sections require immediate repair. This is comforting information to utilities with aging pipelines still in operation, as is the case with the remarkable cast iron water main buried in 1831 beneath what is now Greenwich Village.

By identifying and repairing isolated sections that require intervention followed by a long-term management strategy, a utility can realize major capital program savings over replacement or large-scale rehabilitation. On average, a utility owner can proactively manage a pipeline for 5 to 15 percent of the capital replacement cost. The money saved can be invested to fix and sustain other parts of the system.

The U.S. EPA and ASCE estimate the funding costs associated with buried infrastructure ranges from more than $200 billion to 1 trillion over the next 25 years. The numbers are staggering. Pure Technologies is helping utilities manage their buried infrastructure through its Assess and Address™ approach to pipeline management, and as result, has saved clients hundreds of millions of dollars in replacement costs.

Public pressure to do the right thing

With drought, climate change and water conservation now part of the daily conversation, the pressure is on for public utilities to incorporate sustainable practices into their planning. It’s the right thing to do, from an economic, environment and social standpoint.

By having a strong understanding of the risk and operational conditions of different areas in their system, an appropriate and defensible inspection plan can be developed. This process allows utilities to develop a sustainable long-term strategy for managing their infrastructure well into the next century.

Water and sewer utilities across North America are facing a major funding gap related to their buried pipeline infrastructure. Based on current estimates, utilities do not have enough capital available to fix or replace their aging assets. In addition to the funding gap, utilities are under scrutiny because of increased incidences of pipeline failures that are disruptive to communities and expensive to mitigate.

This new reality has forced utilities to squeeze more remaining life out of existing assets, creating more demand for condition assessment programs that allow utilities to identify specific areas of damage and selectively repair pipelines in favor of full replacement.

Historically, condition assessment has been in the realm of a few specialized firms that respond to high profile pipeline failures; however, the industry has changed and condition assessment is becoming widely used and trusted. This approach has been adopted by many utilities that have successfully managed risk and extended the life of assets for a fraction of the cost of a replacement program.

According to a study by Pure Technologies, the majority of pipelines 16 inches and above can be cost-effectively managed for between 5 and 15 percent of the replacement cost. The study found that pipeline damage is typically not systematic across an entire pipeline, but is usually localized due to factors such as design, manufacturing, installation, environmental, operational or maintenance factors.

Equipped with this information, utilities can be assured that assessing the majority of their mains before replacement can reduce their infrastructure gap and extend the useful life of assets.

However, one question that often gets asked about condition assessment programs is how a utility should choose the right condition assessment solution.

The easiest way to solve this challenge is to employ a risk-based approach to condition assessment using a variety of tools that offer different resolutions.

Staff inserting tools

Defining Risk and Pipeline Priorities

Risk is a measure of the probability and consequence of uncertain future events, in this case, potential pipeline failure. A basic approach can be used to define risk even in complex systems; simply, risk is a product of Consequence of Failure and Likelihood of Failure (CoF x LoF).

Consequence of Failure (COF) refers to the damage a failure would cause based on factors like its location, the amount of users it supplies, and its size and operating pressure. Likelihood of Failure (LOF) refers to the probability of a failure occurring based on factors such as age, pipe material, soil conditions, operating pressure, failure history, among others.

Generally, the Consequence of Failure is well defined by the potential damage a pipeline failure would impose on the surrounding environment and is generally fairly static – or – once defined, it is unlikely going to change rapidly.

With this in mind the key to managing risk, or the possibility that a pipeline could fail, is in understanding the Likelihood of Failure. This can be achieved by quantifying the physical condition of the pipeline and understanding and quantifying the factors that affect the potential for deterioration of the assets.

Once risk is defined, the pipeline inventory can be prioritized which helps in the selection of condition assessment approaches and the application of the appropriate technologies. In general, high-risk pipelines warrant a detailed assessment while low risk pipelines can use lower resolution alternatives.

Using Risk to Select Condition Assessment Techniques

When selecting condition assessment techniques, qualifications and technical judgment should be used in lieu of price. High resolution tools come with a higher cost, but saving money on a low resolution condition assessment is not a responsible alternative for a high-risk main.

For example, the savings gained by selecting a low resolution technology for a large-diameter pipeline with a high CoF are often miniscule in comparison to the repair and capital programming decisions that result from the low resolution condition assessment data. If the data is inconclusive or inaccurate, a utility may unnecessarily invest millions in a capital replacement program that was not required, easily eliminating the savings achieved by selecting the less expensive condition assessment option.

Tech monitoring results

Additionally, the cost of a failure should be considered when selecting a lower-cost assessment for a critical pipeline. The average cost of a large-diameter pipe failure is between US $500,000 and $1.5 million; money saved on lower-resolution assessments can easily be negated by the cost of mitigating a single failure and the resulting reputational damage.

One method of selecting a technology is to compare uncertainty to risk. As mentioned earlier, risk is a measure of the probability and consequence of uncertain future events. When dealing with a high-risk asset, it is important that the solution allows the utility manager to minimize the uncertainty of the condition assessment. More importantly, it is crucial that the utility manager knows the condition of the asset to the best extent possible, particularly in areas where there is a high Consequence of Failure.

Pure Technologies has a suite of condition assessment tools with different resolutions. Our low resolution solutions can provide basic condition data on leaks, air pockets and areas of pipe wall stress that could represent damage. This is a valuable prescreening option for high-risk mains, or alternatively for lower risk mains, can be enough detail for a utility to manage the asset.

Pure’s medium and high resolution tools provide more comprehensive data for higher risk pipe. Our high resolution tools can provide detailed accuracy, for example, locating small pits on metallic pipe. The data collected from both medium and high resolution tools is often used by utilities to create rehabilitation plans for critical mains.

Regardless of the solution provider, it is important that utilities employ a balanced, risk-based approach to condition assessment that uses appropriate tools. The most important factor a utility owner can remember is that there is no silver bullet to assess an entire system.

Sewer pipes below a road

A critical component of Queensland Urban Utilities’ sewerage network is a series of large-diameter sewer rising mains – also known as force mains – which are responsible for transporting 50 per cent of raw sewage in the Brisbane area for treatment. The mains are made of mild steel cement-lined (MSCL) pipe and prestressed concrete pipe (PCP), of diameters ranging from 1295 to 1840 millimetres (52 to 74 inches). The reliability of these sewer rising mains are important from both a customer and environmental perspective.

Building upon previous assessments conducted by Pure Technologies’ Engineering Services, Queensland Urban Utilities sought to identify industry best practices for assessing these critical large-diameter rising mains. The goal of the assessment was to understand the current condition of the mains and identify what remedial works or condition monitoring approaches would help maintain the safe operation of the mains, while extending the life of the assets in accordance with management plans.

In consultation with Pure Technologies, a comprehensive assessment methodology was developed which included: SmartBall® leak and gas pocket detection; ground surveys to determine residual ground cover; isolation, dewatering and cleaning of the mains; CCTV and laser profiling to determine internal deterioration; valve inspections; PureEM™ inspection to determine structural deterioration of the pipe walls; internal visual inspection to confirm and further document findings; transient pressure monitoring to identify loading conditions; and an engineering assessment with rehabilitation recommendations.

PureNET Overhead

A customised EM tool was designed to assess the condition of QUU’s
steel pipe.

Field Data Collection

The inspection provided QUU with actionable information about their assets.


Related Topics

“Queensland Urban Utilities is keen to embrace new technologies to improve our customer service and the reliability of our water and sewerage network,” says Jonathan Farrell, Design Manager at QUU. “The technical expertise provided by Pure has allowed us to undertake an accurate condition assessment and have the appropriate data to make an informed decision on the current condition of the mains. This will allow us to plan cost-effective, timely upgrades to ensure the asset reaches its design life.”

This was a first-of-its-kind assessment in Australia applying new inspection technologies, including the customisation of a 48-detector PureEM tool, as well as a new risk assessment technique for metallic pipes. Detections from the PureEM inspection (i.e. discrete areas of structural deterioration) were validated utilising alternate electromagnetic and ultrasonic techniques, which provided supplemental condition information for the structural assessment.

Inspection and assessment work on two of these critical mains has been completed at this point. The inspection identified specific pipes along the mains with deterioration; but more importantly, the engineering assessment with structural modeling determined that less than 1 per cent of pipes are at a higher risk of failure, meaning the main is in primarily good shape. This data coupled with engineering recommendations is enabling Queensland Urban Utilities to make informed decisions on the mains, including: selective repair or replacement, condition monitoring, and operational changes (i.e. safe working pressure), all for a fraction of the capital replacement costs.

In addition, the work associated with the assessment has provided Queensland Urban Utilities with some valuable lessons learned on the safe management and operation of the mains.


Learn More

Cast Iron Pipes

Managing Metallic Pipelines

Pure offers a number of leading edge technology options for assessing the condition of ferrous water and wastewater mains.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District Assesses Steel Pipeline with Advanced Inline Technology

In November 2012, PDMWD wanted to assess the condition of a 1.2-mile (2-kilometer) stretch of 20-inch (500-mm) mortar-lined steel pipeline that was thought to be in poor condition and may need replacement. Before committing to the large capital project, PDMWD completed a non-destructive inline assessment.

Steel Pipes

Steel Pipe

In an article from the August 2013 Issue of Municipal Sewer and Water, the author explores how Baltimore City Public Works (BPW) is managing its again water system using Acoustic Fiber Optic Monitoring and free-flowing electromagnetic (EM) technology.