Hydraulic Engineering: Water Tapping and How Does it Work?

February 15, 2017


Water main pipes pack municipal district lines with hundreds of kilopascals of pressurized fluid. The strong flow enters multi-storey buildings and housing clusters with a punch, an almighty torrent that pours from shower heads and domestic taps. In hydraulic engineering parlance, this is a high-pressure water line, so how do we "tap" into this essential utility? The resource is there, in plain sight when the trench is finished, but we need water tapping procedures to access the fluid contents.

The Water Tapping Process: An Overview

In simple terms, this specialized piece of apparatus mechanically pierces the mains line without creating a leak. Remember, something like 800 kPa of mains-pressurized water is powering its way through the municipal line. That's an explosive force, at least in fluid terms, so the penetration tool must be capable of inducing the tap without exposing the large pipe's restrained contents. Basically, the hydraulic engineering field has access to a water tapping technology that operates when the water is still coursing inside the mains line, so there's no need to turn off the water supply and inconvenience entire city blocks.

A Practical Installation Approach

Utility lines are marked out in the standard manner, supplemented by municipal plans, and the mains pipe is exposed. A backhoe or similar digger gets to work on the project. Once partially revealed, the rest of the work is conducted manually, so as to preserve the fragile outlines of the pipes. Next, the tapping device clamps solidly to the pipe. It actually girdles the full circumference of the hollow tube, then a series of valves and cutting edges cuts (taps) a hole in the pressurized line. As the trenched pipe is still entirely under the control of the device, a corporation stopper (special stop valve) is installed. From this point on, it's easy to couple a standard service line to the newly fitted valve attachment.

In olden days, this was a hit and miss procedure, a case where the trench could, and did, fill up with a small lake of water while a gushing fountain dominated the street. Today, all of that has changed. Water tapping devices provide a safe and reliable means of piercing borough utility lines without bringing about a potential flood. The tool is easy to master, certain to contain great fluid forces, and remarkably adaptable, thanks mostly to the valves and controls that stopper the water during the installation of a permanent valving unit.

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