Satellite tech to detect leaks in water networks in Oman

Satellite technology is among an array of tools being deployed by the Public Authority for Water (Diam) to combat leaks in the country’s ever-expanding water transmission, distribution and supply networks – leaks that potential cost the government millions of Omani riyals in commercial losses annually.

According to the Authority, leak detection using imagery from satellites helped save an estimated 4.2 million cubic metres of potable water across the network in 2019.  The technology, coupled with a plethora of other innovations adopted by the Authority, helped cut “commercial losses” down to 28 million m3 last year, from 40 million m3 in 2018, Diam noted in its 2019 Annual Report.

Diam estimates the natural rate of rise of leakage at approximately 4 million m3/year, stemming from a combination of factors including pressure in the network, age of pipes, and pipe material and quality.

Besides harnessing state-of-the-art satellite imagery to tackle leaks in the network, Diam has also rolled out an ‘Active Leakage Detection’ programme – an initiative entailing the proactive pinpointing and repair of leaks. The programme has helped reduce commercial water losses by an estimated 5 million m3 last year compared to figures for 2018.

A further saving of 1.8 million m3 in potential commercial losses was achieved following the installation of 25 pressure management devices across various networks.  More than 150 pressure reducing valves, which are activated in the event of a leak, have been installed across the country’s networks since the programme was launched in 2016.  The valves decrease the pressure in the network and reduce the likelihood of a pipeline rupture and rate of flow in the event of a leak.

Additionally, the targeted replacement of faulty pipes helped reduce savings by a further 0.5 million m3 last year, said Diam, noting that pipe rehabilitation is an ongoing priority for the Authority centring on the replacement of poorly performing pipes.

“These activities have delivered savings to offset the natural rate of rise and provide a reduction in real losses on a like for like basis. The overall impact of the reduction in both commercial and real losses have been to reduce the subsidy requirement for Diam,” the Authority added.

Oman’s potable water sector received RO 154.2 million in government subsidy last year, down from RO 155.9 million a year earlier.  Although a heavily subsidised service, state subsidy to the water sector has been on the downtrend in recent years in line with Diam’s mandate to, among other objectives, dramatically reduce government assistance to the industry. From a high of RO 185.7 million in 2016, it dipped to RO 172.3 million a year later.