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Hunter Water adopts 'keyhole surgery' technique for pipe maintenance

Hunter Water is restoring its network with the help of an innovative "keyhole surgery" technology that provides long-term benefits to customers while reducing disruptions to the Lower Hunter community.

The utility has been busy restoring damaged or degraded water mains throughout the region, with four projects installing a structural liner to create a "pipe within a pipe" — an approach ideal for sensitive or difficult-to-access areas.

Hunter Water Managing Director Darren Cleary said the utility was always looking to improve condition assessment and management of infrastructure across its network.

“We devote millions of dollars every year to replace or improve the pipes throughout the network as part of the $685 million we are investing in our capital works program over the four years to 2024,” he said. 

“While condition assessment of any underground assets is not a perfect science, it is evolving with technological advancements, and we are progressively trialing smart sensors and advanced analytical programs to help our ability to prioritise our investment.”

A less invasive approach

Cleary said there are many factors that can affect the pipes’ longevity, including their material, construction method, the weather, ground conditions and movement, as well as vehicle traffic.

“Once we determine the need to restore a pipe, lining technology is a less invasive means of breathing new life into our pipes and it minimises the disruption for the community,” he said.

“We can line a specific section of pipe using access pits, instead of digging a trench all the way along the length of the pipe. In some ways, it could be likened to keyhole surgery.”

Hunter Water has used the technology to complete several projects throughout Lake Macquarie, including water mains above busy roads in Teralba, Cardiff and Argenton, with another water main relining soon to commence in Glendale.