The evaluation of the impact of intermittent water supply on water distribution systems is a complex task. Laboratory tests, in controlled conditions with virtually no constraints on instrument and device location, allow the analysis of the effects of single parameters on pressures and flows. Within the framework of a research consultancy commissioned by the World Bank, the test network at the Water Engineering Laboratory of the University of Perugia, Italy, was modified to analyse pipe filling and emptying phenomena. Herein we describe the characteristics of the set-up, the available instruments and data acquisition system, as well as the installed devices (e.g., air release and in- and off-line ball valves). The set-up was also designed to investigate the effects of the air flow on the overbilling of water meters. The results of a preliminary test allow the typical phases of the phenomenon to be analysed, including the filling of the pipe with water and the discharging of air, the arrival of the water front at the downstream end causing a pressure variation typical of water hammer, and the emptying process and the filling with air. The analysis allows the operational mechanism to be understood and remedial interventions designed and validated.
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