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Water Authority Awarded Patent for Pipeline Inspection Tool

The San Diego County Water Authority has been granted its first ever utility patent for a device that inspects interior sections of water pipelines that are inaccessible or not safe to inspect without expensive specialized gear and training.

Water Authority Operations and Maintenance Manager Martin Coghill invented the tool to save time, reduce costs and improve safety during ongoing aqueduct inspections. The Water Authority’s industry-leading Asset Management Program includes a proactive search for pipeline weaknesses that can be addressed before they become large and costly problems.

Utility Patent-Pipeline Inspection Tool-

Water Authority Awarded Patent for Pipeline Inspection Tool

The San Diego County Water Authority has been granted its first ever utility patent for a device that inspects interior sections of water pipelines that are inaccessible or not safe to inspect without expensive specialized gear and training.

Water Authority Operations and Maintenance Manager Martin Coghill invented the tool to save time, reduce costs and improve safety during ongoing aqueduct inspections. The Water Authority’s industry-leading Asset Management Program includes a proactive search for pipeline weaknesses that can be addressed before they become large and costly problems.

Patent for pipeline inspection system

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Patent #US011,293,581 on April 5, 2022, for the Water Authority’s pipeline inspection system, which comprises a body, cameras, support members and light sources to capture high-resolution images of pipeline walls.

Innovation benefits water ratepayers

“This new pipeline inspection tool is a prime example of the Water Authority’s commitment to innovation that benefits ratepayers by saving money and enhancing reliability,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “We have a long history of advancing industry-leading solutions, from state legislation to adopt low-flow toilets in the early 1990s to the nation’s largest water conservation-and-transfer program a decade later to the largest seawater desalination plant on the continent.”

The Water Authority operates and maintains a water delivery system capable of delivering more than 900 million gallons of water per day through 310 miles of large-diameter pipeline, 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, and approximately 100 metering/flow control facilities. It also includes a state-of-the-art water treatment plant, hydroelectric facilities, pump stations, flow regulatory structures, and reservoirs that store water for emergencies and dry years.

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The inspection tool uses commercially available lightweight adventure cameras and lights that are arranged in a unique way on a chassis that moves through pipelines that are 4 to 9 feet in diameter. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

New pipeline inspection tool part of high-tech toolkit

The Water Authority uses a combination of technologies for monitoring pipelines, including electromagnetic scanning, which detects and locates damaged areas within pipeline walls, and real-time acoustic fiber-optic monitoring, which can detect and locate distressed pipelines while they are in service. The technology invented by Coghill is just a small part of an expansive toolkit.

The Water Authority applied for the patent on June 13, 2019, and spent nearly three years completing the complex process. The patent assigns the intellectual property rights to the Water Authority, allowing it to freely use the technology and share it with other water utilities that might also benefit from its use.

The inspection tool uses commercially available lightweight adventure cameras and lights that are arranged in a unique way on a chassis that moves through pipelines that are 4 to 9 feet in diameter, said Coghill, who has worked for the agency since 2013.

Video of “Scanny” from January 29, 2019

High-resolution imaging

“This technology was created in-house out of necessity to improve safety while inspecting steep portions of our aqueduct,” said Coghill. “The array of multiple cameras enables high-resolution imaging, and the unique design keeps the cameras oriented in the correct position relative to the pipe.”

Coghill, who affectionately calls the tool “Scanny,” said the camera array can also be added to any existing pipeline assessment equipment and offers much higher resolution than traditional CCTV. In addition to inspecting unsafe and inaccessible portions of pipelines, the tool’s design means the Water Authority no longer needs to use specialized third-party rope support crews to assist with pipe inspections. A bonus feature of the device is the ability to stitch the video files together for an immersive 360-degree virtual reality experience. He said it’s always fun to take people into the pipe by just putting on VR goggles.

The Water Authority will continue to use its patented technology to benefit water ratepayers and the safety of employees.

The complete patent is posted on the U.S Patent and Trademark Office website: https://bit.ly/3vGEk0I.

Pipleline 4 repair in March 2022 saved money for San Diego County water ratepayers

Asset Management: Successful Pipeline Repair 4 Project in San Diego

Tens of millions of gallons of water are flowing through a major pipeline in North San Diego County after successful repairs on a distressed section of Pipeline 4. The urgent repair project is a testament to the San Diego County Water Authority’s proactive Asset Management Program, which helps maintain water supply reliability while saving ratepayers money. The pipeline near Bonsall, returned to service in March, after a 10-day shutdown.

High-tech asset management program

Water Authority staff detected potential pipeline weaknesses just north of West Lilac Road in January using real-time acoustic fiber-optic monitoring. This technology locates distressed sections of pipelines even while they are in use as part of the agency’s high-tech asset management program.

As a result of the frequency or rate of change of wire breaks, Water Authority staff began preparing in late January for a 10-day shutdown to replace two distressed sections of pipe.

Preparations included:

  • Coordination with member agencies
  • Meeting with affected homeowners in the vicinity of the work
  • Preparing for the aqueduct shutdown
  • Completing engineering design for the pipe replacement; and
  • Procuring a contractor to complete the repair

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The pipe was delivered on February 28.

Asset Management-Pipeline 4-March 2022

The pipeline was shutdown March 1.

Asset Management-Pipeline 4-Urgent Repair

By that evening, the pipe was nearly excavated.

Asset Management-Pipeline 4-March 2022

The next morning, March 2, the Water Authority asset management team performed

an evaluation of the wire breaks.

Asset management-Pipeline 4-March 2022

After the inspection, the installation of the new steel pipe started, including rebar

work for the concrete encasement. On March 5, the contractor poured 12 truckloads of concrete for the encasement.

Pipeline 4 March 2022

Once the pipeline replacement work was completed, crews

took a final walk through of the pipe in preparation of refill.

Maintenance crews reset a blowoff valve assembly that was removed for access to the pipeline.

P4 work completed after 10 day shutdown-March 2022

By the last day of the 10-day shutdown, the contractor had pulled the shoring and was completing backfill, allowing the pipeline to be put back into operation according to schedule.

Asset management team saves ratepayers money

Pipeline 4 repair work included collaboration with five North County member agencies served by the pipeline, and operations staff from throughout San Diego County, which helped plan and execute the timely completion of the repair.

The asset management team uses the latest inspection technologies to detect age-related defects that might be occurring on pipelines and other water conveyance facilities. By identifying defects early, they can often be corrected using localized, low-cost repair methods prior to them becoming larger, more costly issues.

The Water Authority operates and maintains a regional water delivery system capable of delivering more than 900 million gallons of water per day. The system consists of 310 miles of large-diameter pipeline, 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, and approximately 100 metering/flow control facilities.

Successful Pipeline 4 Repair Saves San Diego County Ratepayers Money

Tens of millions of gallons of water will soon be flowing again through a major pipeline in North San Diego County following successful repairs on a distressed section of Pipeline 4 near Bonsall. The repair is part of the Water Authority’s proactive approach and long-term commitment to maintaining regional water supply.

Pipeline 4 Repair-Repair-Primary

Successful Pipeline 4 Repair Saves San Diego County Ratepayers Money

Tens of millions of gallons of water will soon be flowing again through a major pipeline in North San Diego County following successful repairs on a distressed section of Pipeline 4 near Bonsall.

San Diego County Water Authority staff detected potential pipeline weaknesses just north of West Lilac Road in late January using real-time acoustic fiber-optic monitoring. This technology locates distressed sections of pipelines even while they are in use as part of the agency’s high-tech asset management program.

Water Authority Pipeline 4 repair maintains water supply reliability and affordability

The repair is part of the Water Authority’s proactive approach and long-term commitment to maintaining regional water supply. Strategic investments in money-saving management tools and training paid off when staff spotted a potential problem that could have led to an unplanned shutdown of a 7.5-foot diameter water pipeline.

The pipeline was shut down March 1 so repairs could begin. While Pipeline 4 was out of service, five North County water agencies that rely on it continued water deliveries by other means to homes and businesses.

Even during the shutdown, the Water Authority’s resilient system can deliver treated water to member agency connections from multiple sources, including the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

High-tech asset management program

The Water Authority uses the most current technologies for monitoring large-diameter pipelines, including electromagnetic scanning, which detects and locates damaged areas within pipeline walls, and real-time acoustic fiber-optic monitoring, which can detect and locate distress on pipelines while they are in service.

Pipeline 4 repair

The Water Authority operates and maintains a water delivery system capable of delivering more than 900 million gallons of water per day through 310 miles of large-diameter pipeline, 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, and approximately 100 metering/flow control facilities. It also includes a state-of-the-art water treatment plant, hydroelectric facilities, pump stations, flow regulatory structures, and reservoirs that store water for emergencies and dry years.

As assets age, the Water Authority proactively replaces and repairs them to minimize impacts to member agencies and the public. Investments in the latest inspection technologies, including electromagnetic scanning, robotic inspections and 3D tunnel inspections help the Water Authority’s asset management team detect defects in pipelines and related facilities. By identifying corrosion or other types of deficiencies early, potential problems are corrected so they don’t become large and more costly issues.

“This repair highlights the value of strategic investments in money-saving asset management tools and training,” said Martin Coghill, a senior manager for operations and maintenance at the Water Authority. “By proactively identifying this problem spot, we prevented what could have been a major unplanned shutdown.”

Successful Pipeline 4 Repair Saves San Diego County Ratepayers Money

Tens of millions of gallons of water will soon be flowing again through a major pipeline in North San Diego County following a successful repair on Pipeline 4 near Bonsall. The repair is part of the Water Authority’s proactive approach and long-term commitment to maintaining regional water supply.

Utilities Tap Water ‘Microgrid’ Tech for New Supply

As drought continues to strangle the American West, some small water providers are exploring new technologies to boost their supplies.

The technologies range in size and scope. One involves towing buoys off the coast of California that desalinate water and pipe it ashore. Another can recycle nearly all the water within an apartment building on site.

Atmospheric Rivers Are Stable For Now — But Change Is On The Way

Yale researchers are charting the course of mighty “rivers” in the sky that are holding steady in the face of climate change — for now.

In future decades, however, climate-induced changes to these atmospheric rivers could drastically increase extreme precipitation events in some parts of the world, they report in a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Atmospheric rivers — long, winding filaments of intense water vapor — account for as much as 90% of the moisture sent toward the North and South poles.

Vallecitos Water District Taps Tech for Pipeline Inspection

The Vallecitos Water District is using a specialized camera and sonar to evaluate the condition of a sewer pipeline between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

The Land Outfall West pipeline is a large sewer line that stretches from El Camino Real to the Encina Water Pollution Control Facility in Carlsbad. Originally installed in 1986, an evaluation of the pipeline’s current condition using closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and sonar will help the District identify and prioritize its ongoing pipeline renewal and maintenance activities.

Working with Hoch Consulting, the Vallecitos Water District inspection project will take place through June. Photo: Vallecitos Water Distict

Vallecitos Water District Taps Tech for Pipeline Inspection

The Vallecitos Water District is using a specialized camera and sonar to evaluate the condition of a sewer pipeline between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

The Land Outfall West pipeline is a large sewer line that stretches from El Camino Real to the Encina Water Pollution Control Facility in Carlsbad. Originally installed in 1986, an evaluation of the pipeline’s current condition using closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and sonar will help the District identify and prioritize its ongoing pipeline renewal and maintenance activities.

Inspections help ensure system reliability

Field teams begin the inspection process, which is taking place at night to minimize disruption. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Field teams begin the inspection process, which is taking place at night to minimize disruption. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The pipeline ranges in size from 24-inches to 54-inches in diameter and is approximately 3.2 miles long. Project Manager Susan Bowman said today’s technology allows the District to perform thorough inspections without digging up streets and disrupting neighborhoods.

“We want to make sure the pipeline is still in good shape,” explained Bowman, who is the District’s asset management supervisor. “We’re going to be taking a look at the inside of the pipe using an advanced CCTV tool. It looks at all of the insides of the pipeline and identifies any flaws or maintenance issues that may need to be addressed.”

Bowman said the District regularly inspects manholes and performs routine inspection activities. Using cameras and sonar will provide more detailed information to help the District plan ongoing maintenance and repair to ensure the pipeline will continue to perform well.

District staff, consulting staff, pipeline inspectors, and environmental inspectors will be onsite during the work. Work started at the east end of the pipeline in Carlsbad, and will follow along Palomar Airport Road under Interstate 5, and end at the Encina Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Cost-effective and less disruptive

Map showing the 3.2 mile stretch of Vallectios Water District pipeline undergoing inspection in June. Photo: Vallecitos Water Diatrict

Map showing the 3.2 mile stretch of Vallecitos Water District pipeline undergoing inspection in June. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

To minimize traffic impacts and to take advantage of lower flow levels, all work is scheduled at night between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and will occur on weekdays through June 18. Bowman said most of the work should have limited impact on businesses and residents in the area, with minor compressor noise and limited street blocking along Palomar Airport Road.

Pipeline inspections tap tech

“We want to be good neighbors,” said Bowman. “But it is critical to ensure a pipeline is performing well, it is safe, and it is able to continue to do its job. It’s a cost-effective way to ensure the District’s assets are performing well. The technologies have really improved in the last 15 to 20 years.”

Previously, the only way to inspect a pipeline was to take it out of service and dig it up.

“If you’re going to dig something up to see what shape it’s in, you might as well be replacing it,” said Bowman. “We are definitely looking at a lot of these different noninvasive type of technologies. It helps the system perform better by reducing unplanned emergencies which are disruptive to all of us.”

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)