Efficient Leak Localization in Water Distribution Systems Using Multistage Optimal Valve Operations and Smart Demand Metering

Yuan Huang, Feifei Zheng, Zoran Kapelan, Dragan Savic, Huan Feng Duan, Qingzhou Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This paper proposes a multistage method for burst leak localization through valve operations (VOs) and smart demand metering in district meter areas (DMAs) of water distribution systems (WDSs). Each stage includes partitioning of the DMA into two subregions using VOs and identification of potentially leaking pipes within the subregions through water balance analysis based on smart demand meters. Such a process is performed repeatedly (multiple stages) to narrow down the spatial range for pinpointing leak locations. To improve efficiency, a bisection optimization problem is formulated to localize the minimum leak areas using the lowest number of VOs, which is solved by a graph theory-based method. The utility of the proposed method is demonstrated using two DMAs (DMA1 and DMA2) of a real WDS with different topological properties. Results show that the proposed method can efficiently localize artificial burst leaks in DMA1 within 7–15% of the total pipe length, implying that the proposed method is theoretically effective in localizing pipe burst leaks. The real application to DMA2 has identified two leak regions with 2.3 and 4.2 km of pipe length (around 3–6% of the entire DMA2) using 18 VOs. These two burst leaks have been subsequently confirmed and pinpointed using listening rods by practitioners of the local water utility. These results indicate that the proposed multistage method is effective and efficient for burst leak localization, which can be promising for wide practical applications due to rapid developments of smart WDSs (e.g., smart demand meters or control valves).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020WR028285
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • leak localization
  • smart demand metering
  • valve operations
  • water balance analysis
  • water distribution system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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