Nov 10, 2014

Landmark Leak Detection

Borough of Monaca, Pa., eliminates costly leaks with a smart water network

Landmark Leak Detection

Located just 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Monaca, Pa., is a quaint community of about 6,000 people. While the population may be small in numbers, its commitment to sustainability runs as deep as the bordering Ohio River. To enhance the borough’s current conservation efforts, it implemented a smart water network: an integrated set of products, solutions and systems that enables utilities to remotely and continuously monitor and diagnose problems, prioritize and manage maintenance issues, and use data to optimize all aspects of the water distribution network. Through this implementation, the borough not only cut costs and improved system efficiencies, but also began its journey toward becoming a leader in conservation. 

 One of the key opportunities for improving Monaca’s sustainability efforts was its water system. With an aging, leak-prone system, the borough knew that upgrading to a new, clean technology would help increase productivity, improve billing accuracy and save money.

The borough began this investment by upgrading about 20,000 ft of water line in an attempt to reduce breaks and improve water quality and pressure. Then, the borough added a smart water network, replacing 2,438 water meters and deploying a fixed-base communication network with an advanced metering infrastructure. 

A Proactive Approach

Water leaks are a costly problem, and the borough could not afford to wait for leaks to reveal themselves. To address this, the borough searched for partners and products to help overcome five main challenges:

  • Reduce the time and expense of labor, equipment and transportation;
  • Reduce restoration costs by pinpointing leaks;
  • Reduce treatment costs by lowering chemical, electrical and equipment expenses;
  • Reduce liability costs by minimizing chances of sinkholes, washouts, etc.; and
  • Improve customer confidence.

The data collected from the smart water network helped reveal costly pitfalls in the system that have since been corrected. With the surprises that were in store for the borough soon after installation, the investment in a smart water network proved to be the right decision. 

Fixing a Landmark Leak

The 14th Street spring and waterfall had been landmarks for as long as anyone in the community could remember. Located atop a steep hill, they were well known, yet difficult to reach and monitor. This spring, however, turned out not to be a part of nature, but rather a long-standing rupture buried underground, a fountain of wasted money and water dating back more than 20 years.

Within days of implementation, the leak detection technology quickly alerted the borough to this leak, as well as eight others. Through the use of data analytics, the borough discovered that continuous usage could only be the result of a major leak. Over the two decades that the 14th Street spring and waterfall were considered landmarks, the leak was spilling more than 200,000 gal of water per day, resulting in a total loss of 14.6 billion gal of water. Because of the almost immediate alert from the smart water network, the leak was fixed; however, this was just one stop on the path toward building a more sustainable community. 

The borough of Monaca had 2,221 water accounts on record. After completing the new water meter installation, the borough determined that it actually had 2,412 water accounts, displaying a shortfall of 191 water accounts. With better leak detection and remote meter reads, the utility, overtime and chemical budgets have seen a steady decline since the implementation of the smart water network. The increased data received through the smart water technology also help Monaca manage all water accounts more accurately and efficiently.

Looking Ahead

Today, the borough has a proven means of increasing meter reading efficiency, reducing overhead costs and enhancing customer service simply and reliably. Through real-time meter reading enabled by the smart water network, the borough can provide timely data to customers through an online portal. This technology allows residents to monitor and manage their own water usage. 

The borough of Monaca has always been committed to sustainability, and the smart water network implementation furthers its efforts through increased efficiency and accurate, timely data. This gives customers the opportunity to be conservation leaders as well.

The aging and leaky system was a drain on costs and sustainability efforts. Through this successful investment in smart water technology, the borough ultimately saved millions of gallons of water, discovered hundreds of unmanaged water accounts and jump-started the municipality on the road
toward conservation.

About the author

Mario Leone Jr. is manager of the borough of Monaca. Leone can be reached at [email protected] or 724.775.9603.

expand_less