Space technology to help detect water leaks

Technology used to search for water on other planets is being applied back on earth to detect leaking water mains.

The technology uses satellite imagery taken 650km above the Earth to detect drinking water in the ground.

Intelligent Water Networks (IWN) Chair Neil Brennan said the approach is being trialled for effectiveness within the Victorian water industry.

“We are hoping to have a preliminary report in March that will tell us how this technology has performed in the trial so far,” Brennan said.

“If it meets the pilot objectives, it could have widespread benefits for the water industry and our customers.”

The process involves taking several satellite images over a few weeks, then analysing them to identify the spectral ‘signature’ of drinking water.

The imagery is then laid over GIS maps of pipe networks to pinpoint potentially leaking pipes.

If an area identified on the satellite image as containing drinking water matches up with the pipe network map, field crews can then go in to check for a leak.

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the technology could save millions of litres of drinking water every day.

“The water industry estimates up to 160 million litres of drinking water is lost each day in Victoria to leaks, so finding better ways to detect and fix leaks is critical,” Neville said.

“This project is one of many currently underway to investigate how we can use new technologies for greater efficiency in the water industry.”

The pilot project involves Western Water, City West Water and Yarra Valley Water and covers an area of more than 3000 square kilometres.

After two months of compiling satellite imagery, field validation of leak sites began in February.

The Victorian government is supporting the trial though the Intelligent Water Networks Program (IWN) – a partnership between VicWater, the state’s 17 water corporations and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.