Scottish Water monitoring project wins award for Xylem

Xylem-Scottish Water
The awards ceremony on 4 July.

A ground-breaking project that is enabling continuous remote monitoring of a 16km trunk main has been recognised at the Water Industry Awards.

The Blairlinnans SoundPrint Acoustic Fibre Optic System, a joint project between Xylem and Scottish Water – and described as a European first, was named Asset Management Initiative of the Year at the awards ceremony on 4 July 2024.

The Blairlinnans water main is a 42 inch (1,067mm) pre-stressed concrete (PSC) pipeline that runs from the Blairlinnans Water Treatment Works to a service reservoir in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. The pipeline was installed in 1974 and is critical to the ongoing operation of Scottish Water’s supply network.

Scottish Water identified the main as a high-risk asset, which prompted a complete engineering assessment to understand its true condition and prevent an unexpected burst.

Inspections using Xylem’s SmartBall and PipeDiver technologies provided the data necessary to conduct a thorough engineering analysis. The insights showed while most of the pipeline was in good condition, several sections had broken pre-stressed wires, which are critical to support operational pressures. If the wires break, a trunk main can lose its structural integrity, with a risk of failure.

In the first project of its kind in Europe, Scottish Water selected Xylem’s SoundPrint Acoustic Fibre Optic (AFO) system to continually monitor sections of the pipeline. SoundPrint AFO detects breaks in the pre-stressing wire that hold PSC pipelines together.

The system set-up comprises bundled, reinforced fibre-optic cable fed though the water main, which is connected to a data acquisition system to monitor the acoustic activity in near real-time. If a wire break occurs, it is detected by the AFO system, which is connected to Xylem’s AFO analysts via the cellular network.

Acoustic fibre optic cable.

Wire break events are investigated by the analysts and with the help of machine learning, the break location is pinpointed. An email notification is sent to the customer and the results posted on a cloud-based system, which displays the pipeline status on colour-coded dashboards.

The monitoring, combined with further analysis by Xylem’s engineering service, enables utilities to make proactive decisions about which sections of pipe need to be replaced or repaired as deterioration continues over time.

Ian Dunsmore, team leader – strategic water infrastructure at Scottish Water, said: “Replacement of major pipelines is often cost prohibitive, extremely complex and causes major disruption – however it is rare that the entire pipeline needs to be replaced.

“Leveraging Xylem’s AFO system and engineering experience enabled us to understand the true condition of the Blairlinnans water main at a single point in time and have confidence that the pipeline is being continuously monitored for any further deterioration. It is great news that the success of this joint initiative has been recognised by the sector.”

Andrew Welsh, water utility director at Xylem said: “Xylem is extremely proud that this innovative partnership with Scottish Water has been recognised by the Water Industry Awards.

“The AFO system has enabled Scottish Water to reduce the risk of failure by pre-emptively repairing areas known to be in poor condition, make significant cost savings by extending the life of remaining pipe sections and minimise disruptions to customers, while maintaining the utility’s reputation as a forward-thinking, reliable service provider.”