The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is one of the largest water utilities in the U.S. and one of the oldest, having just celebrated its centennial last year.
The utility currently serves almost 2 million residents living within 1,000 square miles and has installed 5,768 miles of freshwater pipeline and 5578 miles of sewer pipelines.
Aging infrastructure is ever the priority in the greater D.C. area. WSSC has some innovative solutions for identifying which pipes are a priority – not wanting to replace pipes prematurely if they can last a little longer.
“To help monitor its prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP), WSSC began installing an acoustic fiber optic cable (AFO) system in large diameter PCCP more than a decade ago. The cables float inside pipes and monitor for acoustic “pings” that indicate breaks in the pipes’ reinforcing-steel wires. WSSC has 145 miles of PCCP, ranging from 36 in. to 96 in. in diameter. As of 2018, 102 miles of the pipe were monitored with AFO—making it the longest AFO monitoring system in the country, according to WSSC. The monitoring system includes other technologies, such as Pipe Diver, a long-distance, free-swimming condition assessment tool that can be used while pipelines are in service.”
This technology has saved the utility tens of millions. It has identified around 20 damaged pipes over the last eight years, which have been proactively repaired rather than subjected to hurried emergency fixes.
Smaller pipes are more challenging to monitor, while the commission seeks new technologies to identify the repair needs in pipes of that nature.
Innovation is the way forward, and WSSC is currently brainstorming new and efficient ways to manage aging water infrastructure for future implementation.
IMAGE CREDIT: Photo of WSSC Building in Laurel, Maryland by Jstuby at en.wikipedia – Own work transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17780447