Lisbon trial shows benefits of in-pipe monitoring


Andrew Donnelly, Senior Network Manager at Lisbon-based EPAL, which supplies water to more than 3 million people, reports on the success of a year-long collaborative study with Intellitect Water to monitor water quality in the city’s extensive distribution network.

In January 2010, EPAL commenced a pilot project to monitor water quality in Lisbon’s distribution network using Intellitect Water’s innovative Intellisonde™ in-pipe water quality monitors.   The trial sought to assess both the technology and the benefits to be gained from continuous access to water quality data between the treatment plant and the consumer.

Developed to continuously monitor up to 12 parameters within drinking water distribution networks, the Intellisonde™ is a small water quality monitor that can be inserted into pressurised pipes. Intellisondes™ can be supplied with their own GPRS telemetry capability, but in this trial the instruments’ analogue output capability was utilised to interface with an existing telemetry network.

The project enabled an evaluation of logged water quality data and tested the ability of the remote monitoring network to integrate the data into EPAL’s existing network management system.  This data was used by EPAL to perform diagnostics and to enable process improvements as part of a proactive approach to network management.

EPAL had previously installed and operated a network of nearly 300 Cellos (wireless dataloggers) and associated software for monitoring flow and pressure values, so it was advantageous to integrate Intellisondes™ into this network monitoring system.

Four Intellisondes™ were deployed strategically in a sub-zone and connected to Cellos.  The Cellos have eight channels and the Intellisondes™ were configured to measure seven water quality parameters, with the eighth channel configured to monitor battery life.

The water quality parameters measured were Temperature, pH, Turbidity, Conductivity, Free Chlorine Residual, Free Chlorine + Mono-Chloramines, and ORP (REDOX).

The Intellisondes™ logged at 15 minute intervals with the data sent remotely via the Cellos every 24 hours, because this is the same transmission frequency operated by EPAL’s flow and pressure loggers.

The data collection software was programmed to alarm any water quality events outside defined limits for Free Chlorine and Turbidity and the battery voltage programmed to monitor the battery power decay.

Initial installation of the equipment and calibration were carried out with the support of Intellitect Water.  Monthly checks were carried out by the EPAL Team using portable calibration equipment to verify the accuracy of the measurements.

Planned maintenance routines were undertaken after six months to replace the Chlorine Sensors and Reference Electrodes, which had reached the end of their useful life.  Initially, Intellisonde™ battery life was less than expected but this was significantly improved by Intellitect Water during the pilot project by increasing the battery capacity and this is now a standard feature for all new installations.

The water quality data was successfully integrated into EPAL’s network monitoring software (IMC).  The software was capable of downloading data from all sites, initially combining any two water quality parameters with the data from the district monitoring area flow meters, which were being logged separately.

Later, the trial was further enhanced so that data could be combined for each Intellisonde™, which provided information to track water residence time within the distribution network through the use of EPANET hydraulic modelling software.

The data showed that changes in Free Chlorine Residual were caused by the operation of the sub zone and provided a real benefit in understanding flows and water quality in different network operating systems.  The data also showed that the sensors were very reliable, and the calibration of these measurands was simple and easy to implement.

Figure 1: Example display showing Continuous Free Chlorine and Conductivity readings

Following extensive evaluation of multiple Intellisondes™, EPAL has formally approved the Intellisonde™ for use and their management team has recommended wide deployment in order to exploit the benefits of continuous monitoring.

Summarising the project John Howell, Operations Director at Intellitect Water, said: “We are delighted with the success of this project because it has clearly demonstrated the advantages of continuous monitoring over spot sampling during working hours. The ability to monitor water quality continuously in the distribution network helps with the early identification of water quality issues and offers the potential for improvements in operational efficiency whilst maintaining or improving tap water quality.”

Young scientist of 2010


The exuberance of the young students at the award ceremony is infectious

One of the first events in Ireland in the new year is the Young Scientist Exhibition held annually in January. This years event now known as the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition has been in full swing for the past few days.

Picture (C) BT

Richard O'Shea celebrates

School students from across Ireland’s 32 counties descended on the RDS in Dublin set up their stands for the 46th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. (I really feel old now as I can remember the first one way back then!)

Chris Clark, CEO, BT said at the start of the event, “After one of the most brutal years for many years and with a tough start to 2010 due to the snow, what better way to get 2010 back on track by being inspired by the young leaders of the future.”

We have 514 stands to visit and the breadth of the research by students is astounding. Among them are plenty of innovative ideas that could potentially be turned into the next big commercial success so who knows, we may discover the next Google this week.”

The first ever winner of the Young Scientist Exhibition was John Monahan from Newbridge College, Co. Kildare (1965). John is now President of his own biotech company, Avigen Inc, based in California and just last month acquired by MediciNova.

Another winner was Sarah Flannery from Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál in Blarney, Cork . She featured on the front page of newspapers around the world after she scooped the 1999 Esat Telecom Young Scientist of the Year title for her project on encryption. Sarah went on to take first place at the 11th EU Science Contest in Greece and represented the European Union at the International Nobel Prize ceremonies in December 1999.

By happy coincidence Richard O’Shea, 18 year old sixth year student, also from Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, was named the winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition this year with his project entitled, “A biomass fired cooking stove for developing countries”.

Richard received the prestigious honour for his pioneering work on the design of a biomass-fueled cooking stove for use in developing countries.  Over 2 billion people in the world depend on stoves to cook their meals every day, and his project built a new one which uses as little fuel as possible and which ideally produces no smoke. Richard made a strong impression on the judges with his detailed research into the chemical processes involved in burning timber, and with the various designs he came up with using very simple materials such as tin cans and nails which are very easy to find in Third World countries. An added bonus is that his stoves can be built using simple tools such as a Swiss army knife. Richard impressed us with both his science knowledge and the engineering skill he showed in his construction work. He talks us through his invention in the video below!

Conor Lenihan, Minister for Science, Technology, Innovation & Natural Resources with special responsibility for the Knowledge Society, (love the title!), accompanied by Chris Clark of BT, presented Richard with a cheque for €5,000, a Waterford Crystal trophy and the opportunity to represent Ireland at the 21st European Union Contest for Young Scientists taking place in Lisbon, Portugal this coming September.

A Best Group Award  went to Paul McKeever and Bryan Murphy, Abbey Christian Brothers Gs, Co Down for their project entitled “Specs Detector.” This intreguing project was a oair of safety goggles so set up that macinery may not be operated until they are worn by the operator.

See also the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition blog.