Wanted: Research Centres and Universities investigating Lead Pipe Detection Technologies

Published on: 18 Dec 2023

James Lees is an expert in Lead Renewal and Clean Water Networks Operations

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In the UK, there are approximately 6 million lead supply pipes still serving drinking water to properties. Although water companies have preventative measures to reduce the risk from lead pipes, there is still the need to identify and then replace them with preferred materials, as flagged in the UKWIR report ‘Lead Trial Co-ordination 23/DW/04/21 - Enabling 100% Lead Identification’.

Until recently, there have been few technologies that have been able to non-invasively determine the material supply pipes are made of.  As more technologies are being developed, each offering is likely to have strengths and limitations in its ability to determine the pipe material. Understanding the available technologies and their attributes, which can map material types of all connections (not just historic connections), is crucial to help support programmes such as lead pipe replacement.

At the same time as the water industry moves towards 100% lead identification, trials are being undertaken across water companies on disengagement of phosphate dosing. (Phosphate forms an insoluble layer of lead phosphate which prevents corrosion, and, more significantly for human health, the leaching of lead from pipes and plumbing fixtures into drinking water.) Before carrying out the phosphate disengagement, the water companies must first know the material of every supply pipe to ensure no lead supply pipes carry water to premises.

Understanding the available technologies and their attributes will not only help water companies successfully map pipes of all types, but it will also create opportunities to reduce OPEX costs, for example by avoiding excavations where lead is not present.

In July 2023, WRc created a collaborative Portfolio project (CP652) to examine the latest known developments in lead pipe identification technologies, with a focus on assessment of future possibilities for lead pipe replacement in the UK, particularly through non-destructive methods.

The technologies are to be tested at WRc Swindon on known buried pipes with varying material types, lengths and boundary box setups (for in-pipe assessment technologies, further testing on impact from device insertion is to be conducted).

Calling all Research Centres

WRc’s lead pipe identification team is now actively seeking wider collaboration with universities, research centres, and environmental institutes involved in research related to lead pipe identification technologies, particularly non-destructive methods.

How You Can Contribute

  • Share insights into ongoing projects or research related to lead pipe identification technologies.
  • Introduce us to a wider body of researchers who specialise in this field.
  • Provide advice or recommendations on the latest advancements in non-destructive lead pipe identification.

Why Collaborate?

By fostering connections and sharing knowledge, we will all collectively contribute to the advancement of lead pipe identification technologies. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the future of lead pipe replacement in the UK, ensuring a more sustainable water infrastructure.

Connect with Us

Join us to play a crucial role in shaping the future of water infrastructure in the UK.  Contact James Lees at james.lees@wrcgroup.com

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Join us to play a crucial role in shaping the future of water infrastructure in the UK.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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James Lees

Technical Director – Assurance & Accreditation

James has over 15 years’ experience in the Water and Wastewater Sector specialising in management systems, potable distribution networks (including customer side lead supply pipes, Water Regulations and Water Efficiency). James leads WRc Approved, Testing and Meter Testing alongside Technology & Innovation teams.

2023-12-18 16:26:00