What’s under your feet? There are around one million miles of water pipeline and aqueducts in the United States and Canada – that’s enough to circle the globe 40 times. [Source] Link opens a new window
Our pipes need immediate attention. Around 30% of Canada’s municipal water infrastructure (such as watermains and sewers) is in fair, poor, or very poor condition. [Source] Link opens a new window
The problems are more common than you know. In Toronto, there is an average 1,400 watermain breaks each year. [Source] Link opens a new window
The True Cost of Broken Pipes
For cities and towns, failing water infrastructure represents more than mounting costs for ratepayers. It’s also an incredible risk for public health and safety, and it puts further strain on freshwater resources. Leaks and breaks in these systems are common – the City of Toronto experiences an average of 1,400 watermain breaks per year – but if they go undetected or unaddressed, they can lead to bigger problems, such as flooding and source water contamination.
How does water get to your tap? If you live in a city or town, your local utility is likely treating millions of litres of freshwater every day to ensure that you have continuous service – that is, whenever you turn on your tap, there is safe, drinkable water waiting for you.
On its journey from the treatment plant to your home, treated water travels through a network of pipes (or watermains) and pumps. The state of these pipes depends on many factors, including age, material, soil quality, corrosion, and seasonal fluctuations in temperature. There’s a separate network to collect and treat the wastewater that leaves your home, and the situation is similar: All of these systems need regular maintenance, and they’re all at risk of failing.
Urban development puts further strain on water infrastructure. When rain falls, it finds its way back to source waters, such as lakes or streams, or filters directly into the ground. As cities grow, we tend to build or pave over land. Stormwater sewers help prevent rain from collecting and flooding the streets. But if this infrastructure is leaking or broken, stormwater isn’t always treated before it is released into source waters. Furthermore, and especially in cities with older infrastructure, stormwater sewers are often connected to wastewater collection systems. If these systems are overwhelmed during an extreme rainfall, cities have no choice but to send untreated sewage into source waters.
Tackling Leaks and Breaks
For many municipalities, monitoring the health of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure – much of which is underground – is a massive challenge. AquaHacking Challenge team CANN Forecast decided to help cities identify pipes that are vulnerable to leaks and breaks. Using AI technology, the team is offering InteliPipes, a system that is 10 times more accurate than traditional approaches to monitoring.
If a leaky pipe goes unnoticed and worsens, it could cause a dangerous sinkhole, contaminate the surrounding environment, or potentially flood homes or businesses. Our team wants to use AI to help municipal managers locate pipes that are vulnerable to leaks and breaks, and make informed, efficient decisions about when and how to repair, rehabilitate, or replace them.
Co-Founder and CEO, CANN Forecast