The design and management of UWSS are currently limited by the range and resolution of data collection in the relatively inaccessible buried pipelines. Current methods fail to provide the diagnostic resolution needed for many practical problems. We propose a comprehensive theme-based research program involving theoretical, laboratory and field studies to develop a new diagnostic paradigm for water supply network monitoring and fault detection. The findings will enable timely detection of UWSS system defects and proactive mitigation measures. We have assembled an internationally-recognized and cross-disciplinary research team to create the next generation of UWSS—a truly Smart UWSS.

We propose to study the sensing of actively generated waves that travel at high speed (km/s) in the fluid in the pipe and to electronically capture wave echoes. The resulting data will be processed with advanced transient-based inverse methods and algorithms to pinpoint and characterize leaks, blockages, and weak pipes. The theories will be evaluated in a field test bed in HK; a general pilot-scale demonstration experimental test bed will be developed for testing hydraulic transient behavior for UWSS.

This research will be conducted in close collaboration with the HK Water Supplies Department (WSD) and will support HK’s WIN vision. The findings will crucially contribute to the sustainable development of HK through water conservation via locally developed innovation and technology.

Mission: To develop the next generation of UWSS—Smart UWSS—that are better built, instrumented, operated, and managed, and where leaks and potential system failures can be reliably diagnosed. To achieve our mission, we propose to (i) conduct frontier research to establish the scientific and engineering fundamentals of wave transmission in UWSS; (ii) develop innovative and reliable diagnostic techniques; and (iii) develop advanced experimental methodologies and techniques to test, refine, and confirm and launch the new technology.

Goals: Our overriding goal is to develop pioneering methodologies that will assist the design, operation, monitoring, and diagnostic repair of UWSS to maximize societal benefits through water, energy, and financial savings, and reductions in carbon emissions. The research involves: (i) advancing our understanding of complex flow processes at the pilot-scale to inform and guide the creation of new predictive and control models; (ii) developing algorithms and techniques to suppress noise-wave interaction; (iii) establishing techniques and technologies to reliably identify and accurately locate system anomalies in a timely manner; (iv) building a theoretical foundation for communication using acoustic waves within a flowing pipe system; and (v) identifying and developing test beds to explore, refine and prove the new technologies. The research builds on our extensive theoretical and practical expertise in UWSS, including proven laboratory experimentation and field experience. In particular, support in-field testing has been secured from the HK WSD and from HKUST.

Deliverables: To create a diagnostic platform built on the understanding of the propagation and reflection of low and high-frequency wave transmission in pipeline systems and their associated boundaries*; technologies for defect detection, device and pipe characterization, early diagnosis and warning; algorithms for processing wave signals in the for acoustic communication; comprehensive water pipe acoustic channel models with coupled communications and a world-leading test bed to prove and showcase the novel predictive methods and technologies.