Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Sniffer dogs being used to find leaking water pipes

Sniffer dogs being used to find leaking water pipes

SNIFFER dogs are being used to detect water leaks in the Henley area.

Thames Water has launched a trial in which the animals detect minute traces of chlorine which are given off whenever a pipe cracks or bursts.

A three-year-old Sprocker spaniel named Snipe began checking a water main near Hambleden last week.

He and his handler Ross Stephenson, director of Thames Water’s contractor Canine Assisted Pest Eradication, will follow the 40km pipeline to High Wycombe.

The pipe is buried up to 2m below the ground but if it leaks, the small amount of chlorine which is added to sterilise the water will rise to the surface.

Snipe has been trained to stare at areas where he smells it, at which point Mr Stephenson notes the grid reference on a map and sprays the area with blue paint so that engineers can investigate.

The dog is one of three used by the company and each one can cover about 4km per day before becoming bored.

If the trial is successful it could be rolled out more widely, although the technique only works in the countryside as the smell of chlorine doesn’t penetrate roads and pavements.

Thames Water says other companies have uncovered an average of nine leaks per 41km using sniffer dogs.

Mr Stephenson, a former Army veterinarian who trained dogs to sniff for explosives in the warzones of the Middle East, adopted Snape two-and-a-half years ago. He said: “His drive for a ball, which is his reward for finding chlorine, was so high that I thought I’d be able to build up his confidence and work with him. Now he’s a superstar.

“On average it takes about three months to get them up and running. The hardest thing for us is not getting the dog on the scent, it’s the stamina to keep them moving and building up the distances.”

Thames Water says it saved about 448 million litres of water per day last year through finding leaks.

It used satellite surveys and water flow monitors as well as carrying out more repair work.

The company says it spends more than £1 million a day on its network and fixes more than 1,400 leaks per week.

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