Why water companies are heading into outer space…

Water companies are heading into outer space in a bid to identify underground water leaks.

Yorkshire Water has become the latest utility firm to trial the use of space satellites to examine its pipe network in Halifax and Keighley.

The firm has teamed up with the Israeli company Utilis, which is represented in UK by Suez Advanced Solutions and is also a world leader in satellite water leakage detection.

Traditionally, the technology is used to look for water on other planets including Mars, but is now being tested by water companies looking to innovate to help reduce leaks from pipes.

The trial in Yorkshire has helped identify 44 underground pipe leaks in both towns that were then quickly fixed by Yorkshire Water’s response team.

It was calculated by the firm that this helped save 330,000 litres of water a day escaping from its network.

‘We use a Japanese satellite that carries a microwave RADAR, capable of penetrating into the ground to the level of the water pipes,’ said vice president of sales at Utilis, Eddy Segal.

‘For the trial with Yorkshire Water we specifically analysed the area of Halifax and Keighley for leakage,’ he added.

‘We are pleased to work with Yorkshire Water who are one of the leading companies when it comes to the important issue of leakage reduction.’

Yorkshire Water’s leakage team leader in West Yorkshire, Jason Griffin, added: ‘Most leaks from our pipes do not come to the surface and so are hard to identify.

‘However, this satellite was able to detect underground water leaks from our pipes within a 100m radius, which makes it much easier for our leakage inspectors to then pinpoint and repair.’

Last month, Severn Trent announced it was also using space satellites to stop leaks.

‘At the moment leakage detection hasn’t developed much in the way of new emerging technologies, so we’ve chosen to take a chance on satellites. We’re doing two trials to find leaks in different ways,’ said Severn Trent’s head of innovation, Dr Bob Stear.

The company is working with Rezatec, who analyse different types of satellite data and imagery to monitor changes in the landscape near to the pipe.

This includes changes to the vegetation, water content in soil, water accumulation and sub-centimetre ground movement all of which help to identify potential leakage.

In addition, Severn Trent is also doing some work with Utilis, using a Japanese satellite, 637km above the earth.

‘We’re really excited to be working on this. Its early days so far, but it’s looking really promising,’ added Dr Stear.

‘What’s really impressive is that we’re picking up leaks as small as boundary boxes and leaks on valves – something that is normally incredibly difficult to pinpoint.

‘With this new Satellite technology, the time it takes to locate leaks should significantly reduce, which is obviously great news for leakage levels and our customers. We can see clearly the value that this level of geospatial data insight can deliver and we fully expect to be able to improve our costs and efficiency by making better informed decisions when finding and fixing leaks,’ he added.

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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