Creating the fastest way to the right pipeline decision

5 Ways to Improve the Accuracy of Pipe Inspections 

Elevating Precision in Pipe Inspection​

5 Ways to Improve the Accuracy of Pipe Inspections 

1. Embrace the Power of Technology​
2. Comprehensive CCTV Pipe Inspection
3. Regularity in Sewer Pipe Inspection
4. Delving into the Stormwater Inspection Process
5. Adopting a Standardised Pipe Rating Index

Revolutionise Your Asset Management

How AI is Revolutionizing CCTV Pipe Inspection

How AI is Revolutionizing CCTV Pipe Inspection

In today’s fast-paced technological landscape, how we monitor and maintain our essential infrastructures are evolving rapidly. One of the most transformative shifts has been the integration of artificial intelligence into the realm of CCTV pipe inspections.

The New Era of AI-Driven Pipeline Decisions

Traditionally, assessing pipelines, especially those for stormwater or sewer systems, was an extensive task that required hours of manual review. Enter AI, and the narrative changes.

AI in Sewer Pipe Inspections: With the help of cutting-edge tools and software, not only has the efficiency increased, but the accuracy of these inspections has skyrocketed Technologies like VAPAR are making waves by empowering asset owners with AI-driven pipeline decisions, ensuring the fastest and most accurate outcomes.

AI in Stormwater Pipe Inspections: Much like their sewer counterparts, stormwater pipelines benefit immensely from AI integration. The precision in identifying potential issues before they escalate can save municipalities, councils, and asset owners vast amounts of time and money.

VAPAR: Leading the Charge in Advanced Pipe Inspection Techniques

In a realm where precision, speed, and reliability are paramount, VAPAR’s AI software stands out. It’s not just about quicker assessments—it’s about making smarter, more informed decisions. 

Benefits Include: 

  • Faster turnaround times, drastically reducing project durations. 
  • Heightened accuracy, minimizing human errors in assessment. 
  • Predictive analysis, anticipating potential future problems.

Authenticity in AI CCTV Pipe Inspection

As professionals deeply passionate about this transformative technology, the question isn’t just about how AI is revolutionizing the space—it’s about the authentic value it brings to stakeholders: 

CCTV Contractors: With tools like VAPAR, contractors can offer comprehensive services, backed by the latest in AI-driven assessments. 

Engineers: Engineers now have access to more accurate data, ensuring their projects and maintenance work stand the test of time. 

Councils: Ensuring public safety and efficient resource allocation becomes more streamlined with AI-backed data

Why This Matters for Asset Owners and Councils?

Asset owners, more than anyone, need reliability and precision. With advanced pipe inspection techniques powered by AI, the actionable insights provided are invaluable. It’s no longer just about identifying the problem—it’s about foreseeing them and strategizing accordingly.

Final Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence in Pipe Inspections 

As we peer into the future of infrastructure management, the synergy between AI and CCTV pipeline assessment is evident. It’s a union of technology and practicality. And as we’ve seen with VAPAR and the integration of tools like Minicam, this is only the beginning. 

About the Author

Mark Lee is the Business Development Manager (AUS/NZ) at VAPAR and a former Senior Asset Engineer who has spent more than a decade managing the asset lifecycle of infrastructure. He has extensive experience managing pipeline networks, including design, construction, condition assessment and decommissioning.

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Roots in sewers

How to Get Rid of Tree Roots from Your Sewer and Stormwater Pipes: Rooting for Effective Solutions!

How to Get Rid of Tree Roots from Your Sewer and Stormwater pipes: Rooting for Effective Solutions!

Tree roots in sewer lines can be a real drain on the efficiency of your municipality’s wastewater management system. These pesky roots can infiltrate and obstruct sewer pipes, causing blockages, backups, and even structural damage. But fear not! In this article, we’ll explore some effective solutions for tackling tree roots in sewers, so you can keep your wastewater system flowing smoothly without any “rooty” interruptions! 

The Root of the Problem: Understanding Tree Root Infiltration in Sewers

In this section, let’s discuss how tree roots find their way into sewer pipes and cause problems. As trees grow, their roots naturally seek out sources of moisture, including the small cracks and joints in sewer pipes. Over time, the roots can penetrate the pipe walls, creating a tangled mass that obstructs the flow of wastewater. This can result in backups, overflows, and costly repairs if not addressed promptly. Check out this recent video from a plumber extracting 20 feet of tree roots from a sewer pipe here. 

Roots in sewers

Figure 1: Root ingress causing blockage 

Best Practices for Tree Root Removal from sewer pipes

To tackle tree roots in sewers, it’s important to employ effective root minimising techniques. One commonly used method is using root-minimising chemicals that are formulated to destroy tree roots while being safe for the sewer system and the environment, when used properly. These chemicals can be applied through various means, such as foams or liquids, and are typically introduced into the sewer line through access points, such as cleanouts or manholes. 

Going the Extra Mile: Preventative Measures to Keep Roots at Bay

Pipe relining

Figure 2: Spiral Wound Lining of Pipe

While eliminating existing tree roots is essential, it’s equally important to take preventive measures to keep them from coming back. One effective approach is to install sewer pipe linings, such as cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining, which creates a durable barrier inside the pipe, preventing tree roots from infiltrating. This method can help extend the lifespan of your sewer pipes and reduce the need for frequent root-minimising treatments.

Staying Ahead of the Game: Regular CCTV Inspections for Early Detection

Sewer pipe inspection

Figure 3: CCTV pipe inspection of post-lining work

Regular sewer CCTV inspections are a proactive approach to detect tree roots early on, before they cause significant damage. By using high-tech cameras to inspect the interior of sewer pipes, you can identify root intrusion, cracks, or other issues in real-time. This allows you to take prompt action and address the problem before it becomes a costly headache.


By employing root minimising techniques, implementing preventative measures, and conducting regular CCTV inspections, you can effectively manage and eliminate tree root intrusion in your municipality’s sewer system. So, don’t let tree roots “root” for clogs in your sewers, take action today and keep your wastewater management system flowing smoothly!

About the Author

Amanda Siqueira is an Australian civil and environmental engineer who has worked in design, construction and remediation of drainage and sewer pipes in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. She has passion for all things pipes and is also one of the Co-founders of VAPAR.


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Laser in sewer

How Laser Scan Technology Enhances Small-Diameter Sewer Pipe Inspections

How Laser Scan Technology Enhances Small-Diameter Sewer Pipe Inspections

Laser in sewer

Photo courtesy:

Small diameter sewer pipes can be challenging to inspect and diagnose for issues due to their size and accessibility. The emergence of laser scan technology has provided an innovative solution for inspecting small diameter sewer pipes where CCTV inspections methods are not a viable solution. 

What is it?

Laser scan technology uses a centrally placed rotating laser to create a digital 360-degree image of the pipe interior, providing accurate and detailed information about the structure and condition of the pipe. This method is suitable for pipes with diameters as small as 2 inches, making it an ideal solution for inspecting small diameter sewer pipes. Small diameter sewer pipes make up much of the network ( 

How it works ?

The laser scan technology works by emitting a laser beam that rotates within the pipe. As the laser rotates, it captures millions of data points that are used to create a 3D image of the pipe’s interior. The resulting image is highly detailed and provides engineers with information on the pipe’s size, shape, and any defects or obstructions. 

Benefits of laser scan technology

One of the significant benefits of using laser scan technology for small diameter sewer pipes is the non-invasive nature of the inspection. Traditional inspection methods often involve excavating the area around the pipe to access it. However, laser scanning can be performed with minimal disruption to the surrounding area, reducing the impact on communities and businesses. 

Additionally, laser scan technology provides a more comprehensive view of the pipe’s interior compared to traditional methods. The highly detailed 3D images generated by laser scanning can identify defects and obstructions that may not be visible through CCTV inspection. 

In general, in the construction industry, laser scanning has been shown to reduce construction time by up to 50%, according to a report by Trimble. This is due to the highly accurate and detailed information provided by laser scanning, which allows for better planning and coordination during the construction process. 

Challenges of laser scan technology

Despite its benefits, laser scan technology for small diameter sewer pipes still faces challenges. The technology is expensive and requires specialized equipment and trained personnel to operate. The accuracy of the scan is also dependent on factors such as the condition of the pipe and the presence of debris, which can affect the quality of the resulting image. Additionally, interpretation of the data requires skilled engineers, and the high-resolution data generated by the laser scans can lead to large data files that require significant storage and processing power. 

Advancement in the technology

Laser scanning technology is an exciting space and has made significant advancements in recent years, particularly in the inspection and assessment of sewer pipes. One of the key benefits of laser scanning is that it is a non-destructive testing method, meaning it does not require physical alterations to the pipe or surrounding environment. Additionally, portable devices have been developed, enabling inspections of previously inaccessible areas.

Automated analysis using machine learning and artificial intelligence is another benefit, which has enabled the development of software that can identify and classify defects. Finally, real-time data capture provides immediate analysis and decision-making, resulting in more accurate and efficient pipe inspections and maintenance practices. 


In conclusion, laser scan technology offers an innovative solution for inspecting small diameter sewer pipes. With its non-invasive nature and highly detailed 3D images, it provides engineers with accurate and comprehensive information on the condition of the pipes. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we inspect and maintain small diameter sewer pipes. 

About the Author

Amanda Siqueira is an Australian civil and environmental engineer who has worked in design, construction and remediation of drainage and sewer pipes in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. She has passion for all things pipes and is also one of the Co-founders of VAPAR.


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sewer inspection software featured image

Sewer Inspection Software 

Sewer Inspection Software

Why is asset condition important?

One of the fundamental tasks of an asset manager is knowledge of asset condition. Whether this is buildings, bridges, plant, or pipes; collecting accurate information on the condition of the asset base is essential in understanding risk, developing budgets, and preparing asset maintenance and repair programs. 

 For those that manage wastewater and stormwater pipe networks, there is an additional challenge with the assets requiring inspection usually being located underground.  

What is the role of inspection software for sewer and stormwater pipes?

With cities and utilities managing vast pipe networks, there is a necessity for an efficient way to collect data and make decisions based on this information. The typical requirements of sewer inspection software are: 

  • Record defects and pipe features to inform pipe condition and details 
  • Apply consistent scoring of defects based on regional coding systems 
  • Provide a method to grade pipes to determine priority for maintenance and repair work that is required 
  • Generate informative reports to share inspection details with relevant stakeholders 
  • Deliver a structure for further data analysis, and information transfer to asset management software and geographical information systems 
VAPAR sewer inspection software

Figure 1 – Current generation of pipe inspection software

Regional differences between inspection codes

Different countries and regions around the globe have developed pipeline inspection codes in slightly different ways. The goal of each of these codes is typically the same; to provide a uniform standard for a region to apply a consistent approach to the inspection of pipes. 

Below is a list of some of the most common regions and codes that are used around the world. 

North America 

Code: Pipeline Assessment & Certification Program (PACP) Reference Manual 

Issuer: National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) 

 United Kingdom 

Code: Manual of Sewer Condition Classification (MSCC)  

Issuer: Water Research Centre (WRc) 


Code: WSA 05 – 2020 Conduit Inspection Reporting Code of Australia 

Issuer: Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) 

 New Zealand 

Code: New Zealand Gravity Pipe Inspection Manual 

Issuer: Water New Zealand (with ProjectMax) 

 European Union 

Code: DIN EN 13508-2 Investigation and assessment of drain and sewer systems outside buildings – Part 2: Visual inspection coding system 

Issuer: European Committee for Standardization (CEN) 


pipe inspection manual picture

Figure 2– There is a variety of regional coding standards around the world 

How recording inspections has changed over the decades

Clay sewer pipes were first constructed by the Mesopotamians over 6,000 years ago, with modern city sewer construction beginning in the 19th century. Before inspection crawler cameras and computers, these underground pipe networks still required periodic inspection. This was initially a visual inspection that was carried out either by walking or floating through the underground infrastructure. 

Old sewer inspection by canoe

Figure 3 – Pipe inspection by canoe (1908) 

Inspections gradually moved to photography and hand-written logs of defects. The 1950s saw the first development of remote camera deployment into underground pipes. As videography become an option in the 1970s/80s, the opportunity to capture condition information in a video format became accessible to utilities.  

Sewer inspection software evolved as computers became commonplace in businesses. Software provided numerous advantages over written/typed records. Errors reduced, consistency improved and access to information became easier. 

VHS capture of pipe inspection


Figure 4 – VHS capture of pipe condition information 

Video capture then evolved from VHS to digital media storage, and as data capture and storage advanced, inspection file size also grew. This presented fresh challenges for organisations as the transfer and storage of substantial amounts of data required careful management to ensure the condition information remained accessible to those who needed access to it.  

The current generation of sewer inspection software is using artificial intelligence to automatically identify defects and automate many of the tasks that are logic based and ideal for computer-assisted decisions. Data storage is increasingly moving into the cloud to provide fast and organised access to the growing amounts of collected data with ease. 

Pipe inspections still require operator controlled (or staged) capture of data in the field, and results processed through artificial intelligence models are combined with human quality assurance. There is excitement in the industry as the next generation of software is being advanced to further improve the tools available to asset managers.  

Watch this space!  

About the Author Mark Lee

Learn more about Sewer Network

VAPAR automates sewer and stormwater pipe condition assessment for councils, utilities and CCTV contractors.  Learn how we help improve the monitoring and maintenance of the underground pipes using AI.

crack in sewer pipe

Common errors with manual pipe inspection coding, learn more

Common errors with manual pipe inspection coding

None of us is infallible. We all make mistakes. The fact that we are human means there is always a margin for error. In whatever we do.  

 If you are a commercial airline pilot, the room for error is just not there. Lives are at stake if you make a fundamental error. So, there are many aspects that come into play to ensure that risk is mitigated. 

Planes, of course, are highly automated these days; autopilot can navigate and land the plane and arguably is less likely to make an error than a human. But the human is essential. You cannot rely on computers to do everything, and the human must be there in case of an emergency. The recent history of Boeing’s 737 Max is an example of what happens when this does not happen. This is where the best training comes in. Not just one-off training, but regular training and review. Then, of course, are the checklists and manuals. Specific processes to go through in every event. 

Boeing 737 image

Although planes are now highly automated, human input is still an essential element. 

So how does this relate to the coding of pipes? Well, unlike planes, CCTV camera surveys are not yet fully automated. The reporting system still heavily relies on human input to generate a report. Of course, the information is only as good as what is put into the system by humans. 

With pipe coding systems (and there are several of them around the world, including MSCC5 and PACP), there are a set of rules to follow in each instance. Fairly straightforward, right? – Well, yes, if everyone is trained the same way and sees the same thing. But we are humans, and we not only make mistakes but also see things from different perspectives. 

What one might see may be different to another, and this becomes apparent when you look through vast amounts of reports and footage. 

So, what are some common misconceptions, errors, and mistakes humans make when interpreting CCTV recordings? 

Cracks vs Fractures

Without doubt the most common. What is the difference, and how can you tell? A crack is just a broken line visible on the pipe wall, be it circumferential or longitudinal. It will not be open or moved apart; the pipe is still in place. A fracture you can clearly see where the pipe is open on the pipe wall and shows a visible ‘black line’, pieces of the pipe are still in place. 

crack in sewer pipe

Can you tell the difference between a crack and a fracture or cracks <1mm or >1mm” in Australia? 

Pipe Material or Material Change

Many times, the pipe material is coded wrong or missed completely. Often where there is a material change midline it is missed, and many coders can’t tell the difference between certain materials. Common types that get mixed up are pitch fibre and cast iron as they are both dark and can be hard to see. The difference between Vitrified clay and PVC and concrete and asbestos cement. 

Getting the code wrong here could lead to the wrong repair specification or inappropriate recommendations. With pitch fibre, this could cause a longer-term issue if the presence of the material is not identified at an early stage in the survey process and will affect the choice of no dig repairs or excavations. 

Broken vs Hole

Another one we see a lot is the difference between a broken pipe and a hole in the pipe. People’s definitions are mixed up here and without the correct training and reference materials these are often miscoded. A broken pipe shows pieces of pipe that have moved from their original place but are still there, whereas a hole is a visible hole in the fabric of the pipe with the pieces missing. 

 The broken pipe may need to be removed, whereas a hole has already gone. It may be necessary to recover the evidence. If this is coded wrongly then further work required may not be correctly identified, leading to further blockages. 

Junction or Connection

Lots of coders will confuse junctions with connections. The definition of a junction is one that is performed or purpose-made and built into the sewer. A connection, however, has been added afterwards, usually with a boss or just smashed into the pipe, causing a defect. 

 Junctions are meant to be there. If they are wrongly coded as connections, a recommendation may be made to remove and replace them when it’s not needed. Leading to costly, unnecessary excavations. 


Attached or settled, fine or course, grease, or encrustation. All areas where easy mistakes can happen. Encrustation is often coded as grease and vice versa.

So, what is the difference between grease and encrustation? The easiest way to remember is that grease is essential ‘man-made’ whereas encrustation is usually mineral deposits caused by nature. These are usually attached to the pipe. 

 Deposits can cause flow issues, blockages and reduction in hydraulic capacity in the pipe and these foreign materials can stick to the inner pipe wall and become relatively permanent. 

 Settled deposits can be fine (DE S) like sand or silt or coarse (DE R) like gravel or rubble. There are plenty of descriptor codes in this category which often leads to confusion and if in doubt the code (DS Z) is a catch-all for all deposits that can’t be classified by the other codes. 

 Getting the type of deposit right is important because it will build a case as to what the issue with the pipe is. The evidence is important, especially if the pipe is being abused with grease and fat. If it is coded wrongly, the correct action may not be taken where needed. 

Clock references

There are often errors in clock references. Either when inputting a ‘to and from’ or a specific point (and determining when its required). Also, the actual clock reference itself. One person’s 7 o’clock is another’s 8. 

Getting the position wrong could affect where patches are installed or how it affects the serviceability of the pipe. A hole at 11 o’clock is not so damaging as a hole at 7 o’clock if the pipe is running at half bore. 

sewer pipe junction

A junction at 3 o’clock or is that 4 o’clock? 


Used for several codes, percentages, like clock references, are open to human interpretation. Used in deformation, cross-sectional loss, and water levels these are often under or overestimated and not accurate.  

The extent of the intrusion or root mass or the water level is important to determine remedial action and the timescale. If cross-section loss is estimated at 50% when it’s only 20% this could overplay the urgency. 


So, can AI and automation, like the functionality provided by VAPAR,  help with these errors?  

Of course, the answer is yes! Setting out and agreeing on the exact parameters which define a code can allow the software to take out the subjectivity. Although, like a human, an AI will not be 100% accurate, 100% of the time. This is where the provision of a targeted human check of the AI outputs allows the accuracy to exceed using just the AI or Human capability. This approach is no different to how an airline pilot would use manuals and checklists on a plane to ensure the automated systems are working as intended. 

Of course, we are not dealing with hundreds of lives on a plane here, and these types of errors will not necessarily cause a catastrophic consequence. However, the pipe inspection coding errors in extreme cases can lead to the internal flooding of someone’s property or the pollution of a nearby water course.  A Combined Intelligence model, like that used by VAPAR, effectively merges the AI and human inputs to minimise mistakes, improve both accuracy and consistency, and generate efficiencies by grading pipes appropriately to be used in the asset management of piped networks. 

This article is Co-Authored by Nathan & Anthony

Learn more about Sewer Network

VAPAR automates sewer and stormwater pipe condition assessment for councils, utilities and CCTV contractors.  Learn how we help improve the monitoring and maintenance of the underground pipes using AI.

Patch repair needed in new pipe

Streamlining CCTV Pipe Acceptance Testing

Streamlining CCTV Pipe Acceptance Testing

What is a pipe acceptance test?

Utilities that manage sewer and stormwater networks increasingly have reticulation pipework extensions constructed by contractors as part of developer works. These pipes are commissioned and adopted by the utility. In many cases, the new pipes are built as part of a larger development that incorporates road, footpath, and lot divisions for sale. It is important for public utilities to have assurance that these new pipe assets have been constructed to their approved design and are defect free prior to them taking ownership.

This inspection, or CCTV acceptance test, is a critical part of the process that confirms the newly constructed pipe meets the requirements set out by the relevant authority. A CCTV inspection for acceptance is intended to focus on a range of areas, including:

  • Surface damage of internal surfaces
  • Cracking, breaking, or holes in the pipe wall
  • Obstructions or deposits within the pipe
  • Constructed grade (fall) of the pipe
  • Deformation
  • Joint defects
  • Ponding of water, or flat sections
  • Connection and junctions
  • Length of constructed pipe

Public utilities usually specify that these inspections be completed to the relevant inspection reporting code and must meet minimum standards to be approved for contributed asset handover.

Patch repair needed in new pipe

Figure 1- Cured-in-place patch to rectify a pipe defect in a new pipe

Who completes and approves an acceptance test?

Civil construction companies are usually required to engage an independent CCTV sub-contractor to complete an acceptance test, with a qualified engineer providing sign-off on the CCTV results and other accompanying reports where required.

When does the acceptance test occur?

Utilities may be descriptive around what stage the acceptance test can occur, with practical completion of various other on-site works a pre-requirement. Where specified, this detail is listed in a specification document or instruction issued directly from the approving authority.

Cause of Delays

Delays in the workflow when submitting acceptance inspections can occur due to:

  • The time it takes to supply the approving authority the specified video and associated report/s; or
  • In instances where a pipe does not pass the acceptance test, there will likely be some form of minor repair/maintenance required and a follow-up CCTV inspection to confirm any identified issues have been rectified. In most cases this will be jetting to remove construction debris/deposits, or patching a location with pipe wall damage

If the follow-up to a failed CCTV acceptance test is delayed due to the workflow that is setup between civil contractor, CCTV contractor, and reviewing engineer; the cost to the overall project can be significant. In some cases, this delay will fall on the critical path of other finalization works and negatively impact other teams working on the development project. VAPAR has specifically designed a workflow that ensures the time between the CCTV inspection and approval is minimized to reduce any unnecessary or costly delays. In instances that repair or maintenance is required, the details of this can be distributed to the required parties quickly.

deposits and debris in pipe

Figure 2- Deposits and debris that requires removal before acceptance

How can VAPAR assist in avoiding costly delays in your review and approval timeline?

Same day turn-around can be achieved with upload from site that only requires the video file and an internet connection to your internet browser. VAPAR’s AI processing time is measured in minutes, not days. Your reviewed inspection results can be shared in real time with clients you have invited into the VAPAR.Solutions platform in a structured library of current and past inspection projects.

Alternatively, you can choose to send your package of inspection results for the day, or week, as a pdf report set or spreadsheet summary. What does this mean in practical terms? Data and results (including access to the selected inspection video files) can be shared without the requirement for downloaded software or file sharing programs. The CCTV inspection videos, and associated results are available directly to your client in the method most convenient for your situation.

Keeping all your inspections organised and accessible

VAPAR’s cloud storage solution for inspections means cataloguing, finding, and viewing your past CCTV results is both user friendly, and eliminates the requirement for on-premises storage. No more lost files spread across different servers and cluttered folder structures. For utilities that would like to compare original acceptance inspections with end of defect-liability inspection, or condition assessment years down the line, this can be done directly from your internet browser by searching asset ID, or node, to bring up your matching results.

Image of VAPAR.Solutions

Figure 3- Searching past inspections of the same pipe asset

About the Author Mark Lee
waste water monitoring

Increasing the value of wastewater network monitoring

Increasing the value of wastewater network monitoring

Innovation is the key to delivering ever-increasing performance

Asset owners around the world are looking for innovative ways to deliver on the challenge of increasing wastewater network performance targets. With improved technology and the ability to handle large amounts of data, it’s become significantly easier to monitor flow and depth patterns, and highlight issues within a network that trigger a maintenance response prior to a flooding or pollution incident occuring.

waste water monitoring

Radar level and IoT telemetry device from Metasphere (Sense Level, ART Sewer)
Wastewater monitoring can generate a return on investment when they prevent flooding and pollution incidents.

Of course, there is no point in installing monitors for the sake of it, they should be positioned so that they have the greatest value. Having monitors in areas that don’t generate a return on investment is not prudent, therefore knowledge of current system performance and planning is required to determine the optimal locations that will provide a positive return when installed in locations that are most likely to prevent flooding or pollution incidents. 

The most important part of the puzzle in locating monitors is to understand the characteristics of the most common failures within the network; blockages. A previous UKWIR project  identified the following: 

  • 20% of blockages reported over a year are repeats at property level and this increases to between 40% and 60% when analysed at the postcode level. 
  • The proportion of repeats increases to 30% and 70% at a property and postcode resolution respectively when there are 5 years of data available. 
  • Approximately 50% of postcodes and 4% of properties have suffered 1 or more blockages over a 9-year period, this reduces to 23% of postcodes and 1.2% of properties suffering repeat blockages over the same period. 
Picture of sewer blockage

Analysis of historic blockage data indicates blockages repeat at the same location over time.

This analysis shows repeat blockages happen at the same location and that if monitors are located correctly, they can be effective in preventing major incidents. 

 The report also identified the most common causes of blockages: high density of interceptors, high densities of FOG (fats. oils & grease) generating properties, older properties, terraced / high rise properties, small diameter sewers and lower affluence. 

 This suggests that taking remedial action such as removing interceptors, root cutting, repairing structural defects and educating customers about the use of FOGs and wet wipes would mitigate the probability of repeat blockages. Fixing the root cause will prevent having to constantly reattend to carry out blockage clearance maintenance, which causes inconvenience for the customers and increases operational costs. 

 In a perfect world asset owners would repair and replace all the defects in a wastewater network. The reality of course is there is no bottomless pit of money for this activity and funding will continue to be challenged given the current focus on the affordability of utility bills.  

Person calculating his expenses

The affordability challenge associated with utility bills means there will never be sufficient funding to repair all defects on the network.

Repairs are not always practical or cost effective

This is where asset management comes in and provides us with the capability to effectively balance the cost, risk and performance triangle depending on the objectives of the asset owner. For example, In the case of complicated wastewater networks that may run beneath buildings with a flat gradient that increases the blockage probability, then the implementation of a proactive cleansing programme is likely the best approach to balance cost, risk and performance.  The use of monitoring in these situations allows the proactive maintenance costs to be optimised and ensure cleansing is only completed when it is required. 

Cost, risk and performance triangle

Asset Management provides the capability to balance the cost, risk and performance triangle to deliver the asset owner’s objectives.

Alternatively, the installation of a monitor where roots have been identified or where a partial collapse has occurred is unlikely to balance the triangle correctly. It will likely be more efficient to mitigate the root cause (e.g. cut out the roots or repair the collapse) compared to monitoring the location.  

Data is key to making informed decisions

The ability to adapt the correct balance of cost, risk and performance for each scenario is based on having the right data available to understand the root cause of a flooding or pollution location.  Using CCTV pipe inspection data provides the ability to understand the root cause and enables monitors to be installed at locations where they can generate the greatest Return on Investment (ROI).  The historic challenges with CCTV pipe inspection data have been its cost (e.g. it is not cost-effective to survey the entire network) and the ability to provide the outputs in a format that allows good investment decisions. 

 VAPAR uniquely combines Artificial Intelligence, the latest software capability and human input, reducing the cost of CCTV pipe inspections and making the outputs more accessible to decision-makers. Reducing the cost of CCTV pipe inspections makes it more economical to either complete CCTV pipe inspections prior to installing a monitor or use existing inspection data as part of the monitoring decision-making process. A great example of making the CCTV pipe inspection data more accessible is the visualisation of the survey results via a GIS, where the defect locations can be understood relative to the proposed monitor location on the pipe network. 

Pipe network and defects seen on GIS using VAPAR

VAPAR’s capability to visualise CCTV pipe inspection data allows monitoring locations to be identified that will deliver the greatest ROI.


It is fundamental for Asset Managers to look at alternate and innovative ways of managing pipe networks if they are to deliver the increasingly challenging financial and performance targets. The use of network monitoring provides one of these innovative ways, however, it will not provide a ‘Silver Bullet’ in isolation.  The use of VAPAR alongside monitoring will allow CCTV pipe inspection data to inform the decision-making process on where to install monitors. Ultimately this will balance cost, risk and performance and ensure the return on investment from monitoring is realised. 

Nathan Muggeridge - Author

Opportunities to improve the UK pipe inspection standard (MSCC5)

Opportunities to improve the UK pipe inspection standard (MSCC5)



If you work within the UK water industry, you will be very aware of the MSCC5 (Manual of Sewer Condition Classification Fifth Edition). The first edition dates back nearly 40 years now, and in that time, many hundreds of thousands of miles of sewers and pipes by thousands of different contractors of all shapes and sizes have used the code to create a standardised output.


Is history holding back the future?

The Water Research Centre (WRC) first published MSCC back in 1980, and since then, other countries have adopted the idea behind a standard. This led to the creation of the European Standard  BS EN 13508-2:2003+A1:2011, which has allowed the different codes to use a common language. 


This alignment now presents a challenge with updating MSCC so it can keep pace with the technological changes. The need to align with the European Standard means many stakeholders will need to agree to any changes. However, there is a real need to update the standard, given that the current manual is still referring Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) screens and their calibration. Is there anyone out there using these screens now? 


MSCC5 references the calibration of Cathode-Ray Tube screens. Does anyone else still use these screens?

The first opportunity to improve the standard is to consider what the future of pipe inspecting coding might look like and how MSCC can support the future. We feel that using AI and modern software techniques is the first step in modernising a sector that has not changed significantly in the last 40 years. 

car manufacturing with humans

Can the pipe inspection industry be modernised to deliver the benefits generated by the latest manufacturing plants?

How could we look at things differently?

So, what could a new coding standard look like in 2022 if we were designing it from scratch? If you look at computer software these days, it is a lot simpler than it used to be. Less is more now, and even the most complicated programmes have simple user interfaces to help speed up workflow and productivity. Gone are the days of needing to install desktop software and then updating it physically.

So how can this be applied to sewer surveying and classification, given that there are different types of users, from Water companies to small drainage contractors?


We need to think about why we are doing the survey and what is the result we want. The purpose of the standard is all about making an informed decision about investment in repair, maintenance, or renewal in line with its condition, serviceability, and budget available. Does the current coding standard meet the requirements? If yes, does it do it with simplicity in mind? This factor is essential when training people on how to code and survey? With so many codes and conditions to learn, this can extend training requirements and take years for operatives to gain all the experience needed to code the surveys to the exacting standards. Are contractors doing this, and is it possible to audit it accurately – probably not! 


By simplifying and determining the key elements that make up the investment decision, we could remove a lot of unnecessary work and time and use enhanced technology to fill in the gaps speeding up workflow and productivity and saving money. The delivery of this outcome could start with a single document containing the coding and scoring requirements. Currently, MSCC5 includes the codes, and the Sewer Risk Manual holds the scores to determine the condition grades that typically drive the investment need.


Coding observations

Do the current set of codes consider all likely defects on the network? Is coding of infiltration, H2S attack and Hydraulic overload accurate and in a way that informs decisions on the action necessary. We don’t currently have a condition grade that reflects the degree of infiltration associated with an asset.


Abandoned surveys require a comment in the remarks section to explain the root cause for the survey being abandoned. This approach is not helpful when you own a survey company and are looking to minimise the number of abandoned surveys and increase your productivity. How do you determine the value of providing the crews with longer cable lengths to minimise the number of ‘out of cable’ abandonments? In other countries, they have specific abandoned codes related to the defect before. For example, the Australian manual has ‘Survey Abandoned Collapsed Pipe’.

pipe inspection abandoned

How many abandoned surveys occur due to insufficient cable length? 

 Open and displaced joints always cause much debate and can be confusing 5-10% of diameter gets a score of 40, but 1.5 pipe wall thickness receives a score of 2. Typically, a pipe wall thickness equals 10% of the internal pipe diameter, so how can this be made more consistent?

Condition Assessments

We have a situation where we have two different types of condition assessment criteria in the UK. There are two scoring systems; the DRB Drain Repair book grades A, B & C (for domestic properties) and the SRM (Sewer Risk Management grades 1-5) on some software systems. Whilst they map against each other, it seems questionable to have two different approaches. It is essential to have accurate data to make informed decisions, and having one standard will make that accuracy more consistent. This further help simplify the training and reduces the costs for survey company owners.


Furthermore, is it also possible to be more scientific about the likelihood of further deterioration or collapse? Given that we have years of data, is it possible to develop a more accurate way of assessing risk on specific pipe lengths? Could this allow us to plan repair and maintenance more productively and head off issues at an earlier stage with a more cost-effective repair? We suspect the disparate data storage capability of the incumbent software applications for pipe inspection coding means this will be difficult. However, VAPAR’s central database of pipe condition assessments allows this type of data to be easily accessed and could be the key to unlocking a faster and more cost-effective solution to surveying and condition assessment.

Final thoughts

Technology plays a massive part in all our lives; whilst CCTV camera technology has advanced exponentially over the past ten years reporting systems have remained static. The traditional processes are still heavily manual and require extensive training and experience to keep the data collected consistently. But are we now at crossroads in terms of the old and the new?

VAPAR‘s AI platform is now able to generate MSCC5 compliant outputs. The development work to comply with MSCC5, plus the standards used in Australia, the United States and New Zealand, has provided us with a unique perspective.

VAPAR’s modern and unique capability to combine AI and human inputs to produce a fast and accurate output provides an opportunity to match the latest CCTV camera technology. Updating the MSCC standard is one part of the puzzle that will significantly improve how we do things for the customers using piped networks.

vapar platform ai and human

Vapar provides the capability to combine AI and human inputs to produce a fast and accurate output and provides an opportunity to match the capability of the latest CCTV camera technology.