Assessing the potential of LPWAN communication technologies for near real-time leak detection in water distribution systems

Michael Pointl*, Daniela Fuchs-Hanusch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies have been studied extensively for a broad spectrum of smart city applications, their potential for water distribution system monitoring in high temporal resolution has not been studied in detail. However, due to their low power demand, these technologies offer new possibilities for operating pressure-monitoring devices for near real-time leak detection in water distribution systems (WDS). By combining long-distance wireless communication with low power consumption, LPWAN technologies promise long periods of maintenance-free device operation without having to rely on an external power source. This is of particular importance for pressure-based leak detection where optimal sensor positions are often located in the periphery of WDS without a suitable power source. To assess the potential of these technologies for replacing widely-used wireless communication technologies for leak detection, GPRS is compared with the LPWAN standards Narrowband IoT, long-range wide area network (LoRaWAN) and Sigfox. Based on sampling and transmission rates commonly applied in leak detection, the ability of these three technologies to replace GPRS is analyzed based on a self-developed low-power pressure-monitoring device and a simplified, linear energy-consumption model. The results indicate that even though some of the analyzed LPWAN technologies may suffer from contractual and technical limitations, all of them offer viable alternatives, meeting the requirements of leak detection in WDS. In accordance with existing research on data transmission with these technologies, the findings of this work show that even while retaining a compact design, which entails a limited battery capacity, pressure-monitoring devices can exceed runtimes of 5 years, as required for installation at water meters in Austria. Thus, LPWAN technologies have the potential to advance the wide application of near real-time, pressure-based leak detection in WDS, while simultaneously reducing the cost of device operation significantly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number293
Number of pages22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Leak detection
  • Low-power wide-area networks
  • Water distribution system analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems
  • Information, Communication & Computing


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