A project by scientists from CSIRO's Date61 group that helps to predict which water pipes need maintenance before they burst has won the Excellence in Data Science category at this year’s Eureka Prizes.
The Eureka Prizes have been awarded annually since 1990 by the Australian Museum in partnership with a number of sponsors and supporters. They are given for excellence in the fields of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.
According to Data 61, Australian water utilities spend $1.4 billion per year on reactive repairs and maintenance, and predictive techniques to enable their efforts to be focussed on preventative repairs have the potential to save the water industry $700 million annually.
“Condition assessment of water pipes is an expensive and disruptive process with water utilities typically inspecting just one per cent of its network assets every year,” it says.
Data61 says it has developed an advanced failure prediction tool using non-parametric machine learning techniques, with which it expects to double the precision of prediction within this one percent of the network that is inspected.
Data61 has developed the tool by analysing data from a massive number of pipe failures. It has worked with water utilities and research organisations worldwide, including the United Kingdom Water Industry Research (UKWIR) to analyse data from 27 utilities around the world, nine million pipes spanning 525,000 kilometres, and 700,000 failure records.
Water utilities that provided data to the research included: Sydney Water, SA Water, SE Water, CityWest Water and Yarra Valley Water.
More research on water pipe failures
Data61 is not the only Australian research body looking at this problem. The Advanced Condition Assessment and Pipe Failure Prediction Project, described as “A vibrant collaboration of researchers and water utilities from around the globe dedicated to solving a major problem – failures in ageing critical pipelines which deliver fresh water to the towns and cities of the world,” ran from 2011 to 2016, holding several conferences and publishing a number of papers, all of which are on its website.
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