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Utility recruits four-legged staff for 'impawtant' leak detection work

Reducing leaks in water and wastewater networks is a sniff away, with the introduction of two hunting pedigree puppies to Sydney Water’s leak detection team. 

Winnie, a highly intelligent cocker spaniel, and Ziggy, an energetic English springer spaniel, are the first dogs in Australia to detect both leaks and odours in a wastewater network. 

New South Wales Minister for Water Melinda Pavey said the utility’s new staff members may be cute, but they are both being seriously trained for a very important job. 

“Winnie and Ziggy will help us to find and fix hidden leaks in the 26,000 km of wastewater network, which, if left undetected, can lead to overflows into our creeks, waterways and the environment,” Pavey said. 

“As far we know, no other water utility around the world has trained dogs to detect leaks and odours at levels as low as these dogs can detect. Winnie and Ziggy are able to identify the presence of sewage in minute concentrations, even when we might think it is okay.

“These highly-trained puppies will complement the existing approaches being used by our Sydney Water workforce, ensuring our water and wastewater services continue running reliably for the millions of people depending on these services every day.”

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The dogs have undergone months of intensive training with one of the country’s leading dog trainers, Steve Austin, and Sydney Water General Manager of Customer, Strategy and Engagement Maryanne Graham said the trainer is also tasked with training a third puppy.

“The dogs have an unbelievable sense of smell so when our regular methods are restricted by access for example, we can use the dogs to investigate and identify leaks,” Graham said. 

“Steve will also begin training a new puppy, Splash, who’ll be taught to find leaks on the water network, using the smell of chlorine used to disinfect drinking water, which will be a first in NSW.

“Hidden leaks on the water network can turn into major breaks and if we can identify them early, we can reduce water wastage, which is essential regardless of whether we’re in drought or not.”