From satellites to sniffer dogs: how are water companies tracking leaks? - Utility Week

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From satellites to sniffer dogs: how are water companies tracking leaks? - Utility Week

According to figures from Water UK, there are almost half a million kilometres of underground water pipes covering the UK. As such, when leaks inevitably occur, pinpointing and fixing them without causing major disruption can be a major challenge.

Yet further figures from the trade association show that the industry has reduced leakage levels by a third since the 1990s, harnessing a range of new technology and innovation, with water companies in England recently committing to cut leakage by a further 16% by 2025.

This reduction will be enabled by new resources and techniques such as satellite imaging, thermal imaging drones, acoustic equipment and even sniffer dogs to find and fix leaks – areas in which widespread innovation is already taking place.

Ahead of WWT’s Smart Water Conference 2022 – where industry experts will discuss smart solutions to leakage and demand management as part of a schedule packed with case studies, regulatory insights and cutting-edge technological advancements helping the industry to enhance delivery outcomes –  Utility Week Innovate  rounds up some of the latest examples of innovative solutions already in play.

Spotting leaks from space

South West Water has teamed up with satellite data analysts Asterra – which provides data-driven solutions for water utilities and government agencies – to use satellites to find water leaks underground and cut leakage levels across its network.

Asterra’s product, Recover, helps save treated water and thereby reduce associated carbon emissions. The technology is the same as that used to search for water on other planets, and works by using microwave sensors onboard a satellite to take photos of the earth showing potential water leaks.

As microwaves can penetrate up to 2m underground, the data will highlight potential leaks, invisible above ground, so that South West Water’s leakage technicians can make necessary repairs.