Sniffer Dogs - the secret weapon in the search for water
Sniffer dogs search for water
The Water Services Regulation Authority, or Ofwat wants to see leaks reduced by 15%, which it says would save enough water for three months' worth of daily showers for everyone in England and Wales.
Ofwat has challenged all water companies to deliver more for less for customers over the next five years.
United Utilities was one of only three companies in the country whose plans to meet the challenge were accepted by Ofwat.
Imagine the Problem of searching acres and acres of open land looking for water leaks which sometimes are only below the surface undetectable by the human eye.
Some water mains have been in the ground for upwards of 60 to 80 years. Nowadays pipes are fitted with sensors.
Often a burst water main is detected due to changes to the water flow or pressure in other parts of the network which is picked up by the water company's control centre.
The methods for detecting bursts and location can be broadly divided into two main categories, one based on hardware and the other based on software.
HARDWARE LEAK DETECTION
Hardware-based methods include acoustic detection methods such as listening rods, leak correlators, leak noise loggers (digital noise monitors positioned at frequent intervals on a pipe network which localise the areas with the greatest leak noise, then correlate the data to provide the leak position) and non-acoustic detection methods such as gas injection, ground penetrating radar technology and infrared photography.
SOFTWARE LEAK DETECTION
Software-based methods make use of the data collected by real-time pressure and/or flow sensors and several artificial intelligence techniques and statistical data analysis tools.
There is a third method however.....
THE K9 LEAK DETECTION DOG
Finding water leaks in the countryside is a tough task for water companies and United Utilities have combined technology with the talents of a sniffer dog trained to detect water underground. More specifically the company deploys a handler with his sniffer dog trained to be able to detect chlorine. Signs of the chemical in soil could mean a leaking pipe is nearby. The sniffer dog can scent the chlorine from below the ground. The one man-one dog team covers up to 8 km a day and have proved their accuracy time and time again.
Technology plays its part as the water company uses satellite images that identify locations where water pooling is underground which are cross-referenced with the water pipe network.It could just be groundwater or it could be leaks from the network of pipes, but it is not necessarily going to show on the surface.
In towns and cities, the local population provides timely information when reporting that they have no water or by spotting water leaks and really are the eyes on the ground, but in the open sparsely populated countryside it is a different matter.
The dog handler takes note of the spot identified by and this allows the water company to do some further investigation to see if the leak is actually there and then dig down and repair it. It's just another example of how a sniffer dog trained in a certain discipline can help to remedy everyday problems.