A new technology based on acoustic waves is developed to monitor the state of sand filters used in drinking water treatment. Changes in the sand filter, due to the removal of suspended particles from the water and their accumulation in the pores, result in an increase of the bulk density and acoustic speed of the granular material. Consequently, the reflected acoustic response changes as the filter is in use. To monitor these changes, an instrument composed of an omnidirectional transmitter and an array of hydrophones was built. With frequencies ranging between 10 and 110 kHz, high resolution is achieved in the vertical direction enabling the detectability of clogged layers with a minimum thickness of 1 cm. The novel instrument is tested by conducting a monitoring experiment in a filter used in practice. A 2D scan over a part of the filter was performed and repeated every 2 hours over a period of 10 days. An analysis of the data revealed a local increase of the reflected acoustic response with increasing filter run time. The changes in acoustic signal are mainly observed at the upper 5 cm of the sand bed. It is also clear that the filter bed is slowly compacting as a function of time. The total compaction after a period of 10 days reached 3.5 cm. The filter bed is expanded again during the cleaning procedure. Once the procedure is completed, the upper 30 cm of the filter becomes more transparent, showing small accumulations of material at greater depth. The observed changes in the filter bed demonstrate the potential of this acoustic-based tool to monitor the state of rapid sand filters and optimise their performance. The new tool can be used to evaluate the cleaning procedure and is valuable in detecting lateral variations in the filter bed. These variations may indicate local clogging that needs to be removed effectively to avoid deterioration of the overall performance in the long term. This type of information is difficult to obtain from the monitoring techniques currently used in drinking water treatment.

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