The University of Sheffield
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

The Insidious Impact Of Transients On Leakage

Supervisor: Dr Richard Collins

Joint Supervisor: Prof Joby Boxall

This project will undertake a novel experimental programme to understand how repeated transient pressure waves of low and medium amplitude cause degradation of pipes and joints by processes akin to a fatigue mechanism. By combing high quality experiments in the new ICAIR facility with analysis of previously collected real world transient data the project will determine mechanisms through which transients can cause and increase leakage. The derived understanding will enable water companies to highlight problematicâ transients and mitigate them.

There is a body of recent research to understand the impact of pressure transients on large pipe bursts, but the insidious impact they have on network leakage has not been investigated. As a result it is known that large transient pressure spikes can cause pipe failures, and there is some emerging evidence that repeated transient pressure waves of lower amplitude can cause degradation. Our previous research provides unique evidence that these transients are due to the operation of pumping stations, valves and other fittings by water company staff and large industrial users, particularly in the filling of on site tanks. By identifying which of these transients contributes to pipe and joint degradation, mitigation activities can be targeted and the leakage caused by the way the network is operated reduced.

This project would build on our existing research to investigate, in the laboratory, the potential for transients to damage pipes and joints, focusing on the causation of leaks and how leakage rates increase over time. By re-analysing collected pressure data it will also establish the prevalence of these effects in typical water distribution networks.

This project targets a key aim of the new ICAIR facility ( by understanding the deterioration of our critical water infrastructure. The laboratory tests required as part of the project will be undertaken in the UKCRIC component of ICAIR, making use of the pressurised pipe facilities and lengths of buried pipe.

The project proposal is supported by UKWIR ( as part of their Zero leakage Big Question. UKWIR will also facilitate the provision of additional pressure transient data from their member water companies, and exhumed pipe samples to test under various states of deterioration.

The project is supported by a studentship from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering for an exceptional student which will cover the PhD stipend. UKWIR are also making funds available to top up the stipend for an exceptional student.

This project is NOT FUNDED, although Departmental/University scholarships are available for applicants who can demonstrate strong evidence of research potential.

Pre-requisite qualification

1st Class Degree in Civil Engineering or other related subject