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Satellites used for detecting water on other planets being trialled for detecting leaks

Satellite space technology used to hunt for water on other planets in the solar system has been trailed by Yorkshire Water to help identify underground water leaks from its pipe network.

Yorkshire Water partnered with Israeli company, Utilis, represented in UK by Suez Advanced Solutions, which is a world leader in satellite water leakage detection to test out the technology on its pipes in Halifax and Keighley.

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 helped identify 44 underground pipe leaks in both town’s 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.

Eddy Segal, Vice-President of Sales at Utilis, explained how the technology works: “We use a Japanese satellite that carries a microwave RADAR, capable of penetrating into the ground to the level of the water pipes. For the trial with Yorkshire Water we specifically analysed the area of Halifax and Keighley for leakage. 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.”

Jason Griffin, Yorkshire Water’s Leakage Team Leader in West Yorkshire said: “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.  On the back of this, 44 leaks were repaired and this helped stop a significant volume of water escaping into the ground.”

Yorkshire Water is also testing the use of other cutting-edge technology as part of a new strategy to ‘predict and prevent’ water leaks. 

This includes drones that have been used to conduct an aerial topographical survey of 30km of pipework stretching from York to Sheffield. 

Over 15,000 acoustic ears are also being installed into the company’s pipe network that are capable of listening to the noise water makes and help data scientists identify unusual sound patterns that are often a sign of leaks.

The firm has committed to hire 50 new Leakage Inspectors as part of a multi-million pound drive to improve the service it offers to its five millions customers. 

Across the region, Yorkshire Water maintains over 31,000km of water mains which supply over 1 billion litres of water everyday.

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