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Technical Papers

Technologies to assess and manage of providence water’s 102-inch PCCP aqueduct


In 1996, Providence Water experienced a catastrophic failure of its 102″ PCCP aqueduct pipeline. Subsequently, the main underwent an extensive assessment and repair and was returned to service with plans that the main would be re-inspected in approximately 5 years.

In 2005, Providence Water re-inspected the aqueduct. Since the previous inspection, the state-of-the-art for assessing PCCP mains has progressed significantly. Non-destructive technologies available for assessing and monitoring PCCP pipe have made significant strides. Providence Water implemented state-of-the-art inspection procedures to obtain the best possible assessment of the aqueduct. Following the assessment of 4.5 miles of the aqueduct, Providence Water opted to install a fiber optic acoustic monitoring sensor to continuously monitor the condition of the aqueduct and identify pipe sections experiencing ongoing wire break activity.

Providence Water utilized the following technologies during the most recent 2005/2006 inspection/monitoring program:

  • Electromagnetic Inspection – to detect wire breaks in the prestressing wire
  • Visual and Sounding Inspection – to inspect for cracks or delaminations
  • Resistivity Testing – to determine the actual number of wire breaks on excavated pipe sections (vs. the estimated number based on the electromagnetic inspection)
  • Acoustic Monitoring – to detect future wire breaks as they occur in the operational aqueduct

Following the initial inspection, one pipe section was found to be in a state of incipient failure. As a result, several nearby pipe sections were strengthened and a decision was made to install the acoustic monitoring system. This paper focuses on the assessment and monitoring technologies used during this project and describes the capabilities and limitations of these technologies.


  • Michael S. Higgins, P.E.; Pure Technologies, Columbia, MD, USA.
  • Paul J. Gadoury, P.E., Peter LePage, Rich Razza; Providence Water Supply Board, Cranston, RI, USA.
  • Jack Keaney, P.E., Ian Mead, P.E., CDM, Providence, RI, USA.