A framework for GPR-based water leakage detection by integrating hydromechanical modelling into electromagnetic modelling

Huamei Zhu, Feng Xiao, Yimin Zhou, Wallace Wai Lok Lai, Qianbing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Timely and accurate detection of water pipe leakage is critical to preventing the loss of freshwater and predicting potential hazards induced by the change in underground water conditions, thereby developing mitigation strategies to improve the resilience of pipeline infrastructure. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) has been widely applied to investigating ground conditions and detecting pipe leakage. However, due to uncertainties of complex underground environments and time-lapse change, a proper interpretation of GPR data has been a challenging task. This paper aims to leverage hydromechanical (HM) modelling to predict electromagnetic (EM) responses of water leakage detection in diverse leakage cases. A high-fidelity 3D digital model of an actual pipeline network, hosting pipes with various sizes and materials, was reconstructed to represent the complex geometry and various mediums. The interoperability between the digital model and the numerical models utilized in HM and EM simulations was improved to better capture the irregular pipelines. Based on Kriging interpolation and the volumetric complex refractive index model, a linking technique was employed to replicate material heterogeneity caused by water intrusion. Thus, a framework was developed to accommodate the interoperability among digital modelling, HM modelling and finite-difference time-domain forward modelling. Moreover, sensitivity studies were conducted to evaluate the influences of different time stages, leak positions and pipe types on GPR responses. In GPR B-scans, the presence of hyperbolic motion and horizontal reflections serve as indicators to estimate the location and scale of water leakage. Specifically, a downward-shifting hyperbola indicates that the pipeline is submerged by leaked water, whereas the emergence of horizontal reflection is linked to the wetting front of saturated areas. The developed framework can be expanded for complicated applications, such as unknown locations and unforeseen failure modes of pipelines. It will increase the efficiency and accuracy of traditional interpretations of GPR-based water leakage detection and thus enable automated interpretations by data-driven methods.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalNear Surface Geophysics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Oct 2023


  • 3D
  • finite-difference
  • ground-penetrating radar
  • modelling
  • water saturation

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