Water networks

BGS Research — Product development

Water companies manage extensive networks of pipes for water supply and sewerage and, over time, these pipes can fail, resulting in leakage to the surrounding soils. This causes loss of pressure in the system and an increased demand on water treatment works.

Pipes can also fail catastrophically, leading to more severe flooding and significant local inconvenience. Water companies have an obligation to reduce leakage and failures and thus are keen to understand where to invest in maintaining their network to avoid problems caused by geological factors.

Pipe corrosion modelling

Pitting and perforation of cast iron
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Pitting and perforation of cast iron. BGS © UKRI.

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The BGS completed two NERC grants to work with Yorkshire Water to model the geological factors that can cause pipe failure. These projects aimed to identify relationships between pipe failure and the properties of the ground, such as how corrosive the ground is to iron pipes, the impact of ground instability and the role of other factors such as terrain and ground wetness.

Correlating pipe failures with locations that have particular ground conditions can be used to predict where failures might happen in future and offer strategies for mitigating the issues. These projects funded stakeholder engagement with Yorkshire Water engineers to analyse their experiences of why pipes fail in some localities as well as an extensive statistical analysis of pipe failure data. The results indicated that some operational factors (such as number of households connected to a section of pipe) had most impact on asset performance, but that geological factors for corrosivity, swelling clays and compressibility had significant correlation in some areas.

It is hoped that the outputs of these projects will provide information that can be used to:

  • select more appropriate pipe materials for given ground conditions
  • screen areas for future asset investment or renewal
  • identify areas where additional factors may need to be incorporated into the model (e.g. where other issues are resulting in pipe failure)


If you want to discover more then please contact Russell Lawley.

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