Water loss through leaking pipes constitutes a major challenge to the operational service of water utilities. In recent years, increasing concern about the financial loss and environmental pollution caused by leaking pipes has been driving the development of efficient algorithms for detecting leakage in water piping networks. Water distribution networks (WDNs) are disperse in nature with numerous number of nodes and branches. Consequently, identifying the segment(s) of the network and the exact leaking pipelines connected to this segment(s) where higher background leakage outflow occurs is a challenging task. Background leakage concerns the outflow from small cracks or deteriorated joints. In addition, because they are diffuse flow, they are not characterised by quick pressure drop and are not detectable by measuring instruments. Consequently, they go unreported for a long period of time posing a threat to water loss volume. Most of the existing research focuses on the detection and localisation of burst type leakages which are characterised by a sudden pressure drop. In this work, an algorithm for detecting and estimating background leakage in water distribution networks is presented. The algorithm integrates a leakage model into a classical WDN hydraulic model for solving the network leakage flows. The applicability of the developed algorithm is demonstrated on two different water networks. The results of the tested networks are discussed and the solutions obtained show the benefits of the proposed algorithm. A noteworthy evidence is that the algorithm permits the detection of critical segments or pipes of the network experiencing higher leakage outflow and indicates the probable pipes of the network where pressure control can be performed. However, the possible position of pressure control elements along such critical pipes will be addressed in future work.
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