Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Final Report: Leak Detection and Wireless Telemetry for Water Distribution and Sewerage Systems

EPA Contract Number: EPD09017
Title: Leak Detection and Wireless Telemetry for Water Distribution and Sewerage Systems
Investigators: Chang, Daniel P.Y.
Small Business: DC Instruments
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009
Project Amount: $69,987
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The intent of DC Instruments for the Phase I research period is to develop leak detection and wireless telemetry for water distribution and sewerage systems. The overall objective is to establish a wireless network among underground and surface leak detectors, which will relay consolidated leak information through the Internet. Over the Internet, by using leak-pinpointing software, water leaks can be located. In addition, multi-sensor fusion also is being pursued.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Freescale ZIGBEE (2.4 GHz RF transceiver) and MC9S08GT60 MCU were chosen for surface and underground wireless network communication. Two ZIGBEE devices (one network coordinator and one end sensing device) were tested for underground wireless communication in different types of soil (clay, loam, and sand). The distance between two ZIGBEE devices is 10 feet; the depth is about 2-3 feet. The transmitting power of one ZIGBEE device was adjusted until the receiving device failed to receive valid data; this minimum power was recorded for analysis.  
A leak location was pinpointed by using a laptop, a high quality multi-channel 16-bit sound card at a sampling rate of 44,100 Hz, two microphones along with Fast Fourier Transformation, and sound wave calculation software. 
Temperature, pressure, and acoustic sensors were used to test leaks. The thought process for multiple sensors is to correlate acoustic, temperature, and pressure data together in leak detection and location pinpointing. 


The communication between two systems (network coordinator and end sensing device) has been established. The end-sensing device is connected to a leak detection unit through serial links, and the information is relayed to the network coordinator through 802.15.4 protocol. Then, the network coordinator communicates to a PC with USB or wirelessly, so that the information can be propagated to the Internet through a Wi-Fi gateway or a cellular gateway.
For underground wireless communication, the conclusion is summarized in the following two statements:
Statement 1:  The larger the amount of soil through which the signal must propagate, the greater the experienced signal attenuation.
Statement 2:  The minimum transmitting power is 17 mW in 2.4 GHz frequency band for 2 sensors buried 2 feet deep in hard clay at 200 feet apart.
For leak location pinpointing, based on a sound speed of 340 meters/sec and a sample rate of 44,100 Hz, the resolution of leak pinpointing is as low as 0.3 inches. To increase the accuracy of leak detection and avoid false alarms, a multi-sensor approach should be taken.
Foresight Science & Technology (Providence, RI) completed its Niche Analysis on Pipeline Monitoring under the project number EPA0523TN for DC Instruments. Nine areas were studied. They are listed below:
(1)  End-User Feedback/End-User Requirements
(2)  Regulations/Standards/Certifications
(3)  Competitor Comparison/Competitive Landscape
(4)  Relative Patents
(5)  Relative Projects
(6)  Market Estimate/Niche Size
(7)  Market Entry Barriers
(8)  Future Targets
(9)  Revenue Projection
In conclusion, below is an excerpt from the report:
“The market for this technology, at least for initial entry, is the water and gas pipeline monitoring market. We have estimated the initial market size, for water reservoir pipelines, to be $8.05 million. However, the total market, if all public water systems decide to use this technology, is $3.71 billion. The aging water infrastructure in the United States is a significant market driver for this technology.”
We have thus far located three practical Visionary Customers, and identified their current problems:
(1)   Santa Margarita Water District, Mission Viejo, California
Contact:  Mr. Gerre Beddell, Superintendent 
(2)   PRC Mechanical, Glendale, California
Facility:  American Honda Manufacturing Plant, Torrance, CA
Contact:  Mr. Trevor Day, Project Manager
(3)   City of Boulder, Colorado Dept. of Public Works
Contact:  Mr. Joe Taddeucci, Project Manager
DC Instruments expects rapid growth in commercialization activities for the coming 2 years as product demonstrations and utility collaborations commence. As a predominant goal, DC Instruments expects two to three visionary customer buy-ins based on product satisfaction and business maturities. A 5 year business plan is being developed and manipulated as current activities and research have suggested a market demand for this type of product and improved after-market service need. Profiling such organizations as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has resulted in increased awareness of the requirements for water conservation efforts in leak detection.   

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, water distribution system, sewer system, water infrastructure, water leak detection, underground wireless communication network, leak detector, sensor, reduce water consumption, reduce electricity consumption, gas leak detection, structure failure detection, geological survey, measurement and monitoring

Progress and Final Reports:
Original Abstract