Video | ‘Detective’ dogs help Scottish Water locate leaking pipes

Scottish Water has deployed a team of sniffer dogs to help find leaking water mains in rural Scotland.

The specially trained dogs can locate leaks in pipes in rural areas where the water does not always show on the surface.

The four canine helpers – springer spaniels Kilo and Denzel; cocker spaniel Mylo; and labrador cocker spaniel cross Tico – have been trained by ex-military dog handlers to detect the smell of chlorine in treated water.

Stewart Hamilton, a Scottish Water customer services operations team manager, said: “It is often very difficult in wet, boggy terrain to source leaks, but dogs are part of the solution. We call in the team when we see an increase in flows in our data.

“It’s effective using the dogs in rural and remote areas and when the weather is wet. The handlers walk the mains, following a mains app, and the dogs are very efficient and differentiate between the smells of surface water and treated water.”

An innovative solution

The dogs recently discovered 21 ‘points of interest’ or suspected leaks in the Borders and East Lothian.

Hamilton added: “We use modern technology such as ground microphones, correlators, hydrophones, and other devices to pinpoint the exact location of underground assets and leaks.

“However, some bursts in rural locations are more difficult to pinpoint and we are always looking for innovative ways to do the job more effectively and to continue reducing leakage.

“That’s where these sniffer dogs come in because their sensitive noses can detect treated mains water at very low concentrations.

Super noses

Luke Jones, managing director of Cape SPC, the company providing the service and which owns the dogs, said: “The dogs’ sense of smell is about 40 times greater than human beings’ because they have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared with our six million. They are trained by scent association and rewarded for smelling chlorine, which rises to the surface from pipes, with ‘prizes’ of balls, toys, or treats."

Scottish Water has 31,000 miles of water mains and its water supply system is very different from the majority of systems in England, reflecting the geography and topography of the country.

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