Dr Karen Anderson, Prof. Richard Brazier and Dr David Luscombe (SWEEP Impact Fellow) from the University of Exeter are working in partnership with South West Water to develop a solution to one of the water industry’s most pressing problems.
Their aim is to deploy the latest airborne technology to quickly and accurate identify leaks in its extensive pipe network – saving time, money, water, and the need to over-excavate suspect areas.
The importance of early detection
Leaks from submerged water mains pipes and aqueducts bring major operational and environmental costs. Within the South West England water network alone, there are over 15,000km of buried pipes. Every year, £7million is spent detecting and tackling leaks in this network, with over 80million litres (32 Olympic-sized swimming pools) of water lost every day. The biggest challenge in addressing these leaks is their detection. Pipes often lie deep underground and the exact leak location is hard to detect.
Utilising the latest technology
This project will use state-of-the-art thermal imaging approaches to survey the ground from above, allowing patterns of surface and near-surface water to be mapped. Lightweight drones equipped with proximal sensing technology will gather data which, with expert interpretation, will give detailed pictures of problem areas. The result will be a significant cost saving to South West Water, and longer-term, reduced bills for customers. This work has the potential to have significant environmental benefits too. Reducing water losses will support the preservation of the region’s water resources, reducing our impact on the environment by reducing abstraction.
Benjamin works on the SWEEP 003 (Leak Detection) and 009 (Whole catchment) projects. He is a Physical Geographer, with a background in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), environmental modelling and river catchment management. He has worked on projects relating to flooding in river/wastewater networks, low-flow hydrology, and chemical risk assessment.