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Smart technology to secure Christchurch’s drinking water supply

An additional expenditure of NZ$ 2.2 million next year is being considered by the Christchurch City Council in order to improve the security of the district’s drinking water supply.

According to a recent press release, the Council agreed to consider adding NZ$ 2 million to next year’s budget so that they can install and operate smart pressure and acoustic sensors in the water supply network.

Moreover, an additional NZ$ 200,000 will be allotted to help reduce the potential backflow into the network through greater auditing of commercial water connections.

Boosting security of water supply

These two initiatives are part of a wider plan to improve the security of the district’s water supply network in anticipation of stricter standards, which is the result of the New Zealand Government’s national water services review.

Around NZ$ 350 million in network upgrades will be considered as part of the Council’s next Long Term Plan.

This will include a district-wide rollout of smart water-flow meters for residential and commercial users.

Smart technology has already been trialled in parts of the district to detect fluctuations in water pressure, which can put strain on the network and lead to pipe bursts.

According to the Water Supply Improvement Programme Manager, installing the technology throughout the network would allow the Council to better ensure the safety and reliability of the district’s drinking water supply.

The drinking water stays safe because the pressure within the water supply pipes is higher than that of the surrounding groundwater.

But, if there is a major leak or a pipe burst, it can lead to a drop in water pressure and the potential for the water supply to become contaminated.

Benefits of using smart tech

Early identification and pinpointing of leaks, followed up with quick repairs, can avoid bigger problems like pipe bursts.

Plus, it can greatly reduce any risk of contamination or disruption to the water supply, such as ‘boil water’ events.

A recent trial of high-speed pressure and acoustic sensors in the Riccarton and North West water supply zones used artificial intelligence (AI) to learn pressure and sound patterns to detect leaks in pipe materials.

The information could also be used to find and prioritise the most at-risk pipes for replacement as part of the Council’s ongoing work programme.

In the same way, smart water-flow metres, which have also been trialled in the district, could be used to identify early problems with supply and help to spread peak loads on the network over summer by charging high water users.

New technologies present an opportunity to significantly improve the understanding and management of the water services infrastructure.

Smart monitoring and control of the water supply are necessary steps to keep the drinking water safe and free from disinfection such as chlorine in the long term.

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