Yorkshire Water says the first stage of its £300,000 satellite leak detection trial has been “hugely successful” and has saved 0.5 megalitres of water per day.

The company has been using satellites normally used for detecting water on other planets to detect leakages in its area.

Yorkshire Water’s innovation team funded and managed the project, which has helped the leakage team across Huddersfield and Dewsbury to find double the number of leaks compared to traditional methods been used, saving 0.5 megalitres of water per day.

Utilis, a satellite-based leak detection company, partnered with Yorkshire Water and has used the satellites to provide microwave ground-penetrating imaging to show whether there is a leak on the network.

The Israeli company is represented in the UK by Suez Advanced Solutions. Together they normally use the technology to look for water on other planets including Mars.

The trial will now move on to its second stage and provide images on some of the company’s trunk mains in rural areas in west Yorkshire.

Trunk mains in remote areas are extremely difficult to get to for leakage inspectors and cover vast areas.

Jason Griffin, Yorkshire Water’s leakage technology manager, said: “Water supply is a big priority for Yorkshire Water and is one of the company’s five big goals.

“As a company, we have set ourselves a leakage reduction target of 40 per cent over the next seven years and we are hopeful satellites can play a role in helping us achieve that.

“We are thrilled with the results of the first trial and extremely excited about how satellites can help us find those burst pipes in remote locations.”

A spokesperson for Utilis told Utility Week: “With the support of Suez Advanced Solutions UK, Utilis’ sole representative in the UK, following successful adoption of the new methodology by Yorkshire Water leak detection crews and positive results in the field, the trial was expanded to cover a large area around Huddersfield and Dewsbury, scanning more than 3,500 Km of network, including distribution and trunk mains.

“Utilis Satellite Imagery Leak Detection is being implemented seamlessly in Yorkshire Water thanks to high professionalism and dedication of the end-users, that is the leak detection teams in the field.”

Yorkshire Water is not the only company to be using satellites to detect leaks.

Last month Thames Water announced it has launched a three-pronged aerial attack in its hunt to find and fix leaky pipes. The company is using a fleet of drones, an aeroplane and a satellite to support its mission to get back on track with its leakage targets by 2020.

Thames Water plans to reduce leakage by a further 15 per cent by 2025. Ofwat recently rubber stamped the £120 million payments and penalties package Thames Water will pay for its poor leakage performance.

Severn Trent said it was trialing satellites in November last year, in a bid to reduce leakage levels by 15 per cent.

The company, which already used drones to spot leaks from the air, said it is going a step further with its “leakage detection from space”.

Dr Bob Stear, head of innovation at Severn Trent, said: “At the moment leakage detection hasn’t developed much in the way of new emerging technologies, so we’ve chosen to take a chance on satellites. We’re doing two trials to find leaks in different ways.”

Ofwat has urged the water sector to deliver a “game change” on leakage and environment secretary Michael Gove has challenged companies to “raise the bar” to tackle leakage.

What to read next