Department Urban Water Management

Smart Water Pipes

How can we optimise drinking water distribution? Where are critical points in the distribution system? Can we identify small, often undetected leaks?

The knowledge about the water distribution network varies from city to city and from country to country. This two-year Smart Water Pipes (SWP) project aims at providing answers to these questions by developing self-powered, sensored pipes. These intelligent pipes will enable smart management of the water distribution by sensors fitted to underground distribution pipes. Sensors collect energy from their operational environment and transmit valuable data wirelessly to the surface.


What are the merits and innovations of these smart water pipes?

Self-powered sensors: The energy demand is not covered by batteries with a limited life-time but by a non-invasive energy harvesting system based on temperature differences in the environment.

No access required: Access to the buried water distribution system is usually limited to costly manholes. However, as the sensors in this project are directly attached to the fitting and are self-sufficient in regard to energy and data transmission, no access is required. Consequently, these pipes can be placed at difficult-to-access locations,

Unlimited spatial distribution: As the sensors are self-powered and once buried, do not require access, the Smart Water Pipes can be placed any- and everywhere in a water distribution network. This results in a spatially distributed sensor network which is nearly unlimited in terms of spatial resolution.

Wireless low-power communication: The sensors communicate with LPWAN techniques enabling real-time communication. This significantly improves monitoring of drinking water networks, as leakages and other anomalies can be detected in real-time.

In a nutshell: the Smart Water Pipes project will re-define management of water distribution by integrating novel and energy-autonomous technologies into distribution pipes to allow intelligent, sustainable and spatially distributed management of water infrastructure systems.


How do we proceed?

The team at ETH/Eawag focuses on the technological development and the assessment of the potential of these Smart Water Pipes. This assessment is divided into infrastructure and soil temperature analysis and modelling, resulting in a user-oriented, web-based application which will allow the municipalities to evaluate their potential for Smart Water Pipes.


Who is involved?

Smart Water Pipes is an Innosuisse-Project and involves the following partners:

  • Project manager: ZHAW Institute of Embedded Systems
  • Research partner: ETH and Eawag
  • Main implementation partner: GF Piping Systems
  • Implementation partner: Stadtwerk Winterthur


Project Team

Christian Ebi Sensor Networks and Electronics Tel. +41 58 765 5992 Send Mail

Former team members

Dr. Frank Blumensaat

Project partners