In the last decades several reliable technologies have been proposed for fault detection in water distribution networks (DNs), whereas there are some limitations for transmission mains (TMs). For TM inspection, the most common fault detection technologies are of inline types—with sensors inserted into the pipelines—and then more expensive with respect to those used in DNs. An alternative to in-line sensors is given by transient test-based techniques (TTBTs), where pressure waves are injected in pipes “to explore” them. On the basis of the results of some tests, this paper analyses the relevance of the system configuration, energy dissipation phenomena, and pipe material characteristics in the transient behavior of a real TM. With this aim, a numerical model has been progressively refined not only in terms of the governing equations but also by including a more and more realistic representation of the system layout and taking into account the actual functioning conditions. As a result, the unexpected role of the minor branches—i.e., pipes with a length smaller than the 1% of the length of the main pipe—is pointed out and a preliminary criterion for the system skeletonization is offered. Moreover, the importance of both unsteady friction and viscoelasticity is evaluated as well as the remarkable effects of small defects is highlighted.
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