From niche to normal: 'Business as Usual' for SUEZ Satellite Leak Detection

Nick Haskins
by Nick Haskins, Business Development Manager, SUEZ
A great leap in innovation for the water industry
Futurologist Alvin Toffler once declared that technology is "the great growling engine of change". One strategic technological innovation that has made a strong presence – and initiated a powerful change – in the water leakage industry is Satellite Leak Detection.

An innovative solution that SUEZ and technology partner ASTERRA brought to the UK, Satellite Leak Detection offers a more efficient and cost-effective means of detecting water leaks.

Majority of the 17 water companies in the UK that have worked with SUEZ using this cutting-edge technology have conducted trials, reported findings, and adopted the technology in a matter of months rather than years – a huge feat considering the measured approach of water companies involving any new technology.

The water leakage industry is currently flooded with new innovations, all claiming to be able to help reduce leak levels. This is always a great thing. However, not all of these ideas will end up as 'business as usual' for many water companies.

Any innovative solution normally goes through a long series of trials, where every utility wants to evaluate new ideas themselves, never mind that successful trials have been conducted at other water companies, case studies published, and even data shared.

For many in the industry, this would mean so many adjustments and changes, from the working methods to processes and policies that need to be reviewed, amended, and adopted.

Then there is the significant multi-level engagement required within the organisation to get maximum buy-in, which is necessary to ensure that the full benefits seen at the trial stage are carried through in the roll-out.

Many questions are asked, including how long before an innovation gets the stamp of approval, or if it has acquired enough data for results to be considered credible, and so on. Even with successful trials, there is always a chance for an innovation to stall or slow down on its path to full usage.

Satellite Leak Detection technology, however, has broken the mould. Its ability to identify hidden leaks across the whole water supply zone with one scan gives water companies a powerful tool to potentially help hit their leakage goals.

Driving down leakage is of paramount importance for water companies during AMP7, and Satellite Leak Detection is an excellent complementary process to addressing significant water leakage targets.

SUEZ’s advanced technology, using ASTERRA's leak detection service called Recover, resulted in roughly 83 million litres of water saved daily in the UK, with over 3 times as many leaks found per day than traditional methods. This also means that 45,871 MWh of energy is saved. Thus far this year, a total of 260,143 km of drinking water distribution and trunk pipes in the UK have been scanned using this technology. On a global scale, ASTERRA confirmed its 50,000th leak using the Recover technology in April this year. The company also won the 2022 Excellence Award at the Geospatial World Forum for a water project that detected drinking water leaks in the Bahamas. These advances and recognitions in the UK and abroad are proof that the world is now ready for technological changes in the water leakage industry.

Apart from being a truly disruptive solution, this technology has unique scalability. One satellite image can cover 3,500 of land area, which translates to thousands of kilometres of pipework. One image can cover an entire water system, with leakage 'hotspots' being easily identified accurately and with great precision. If acted upon quickly, this would result in less damages, claims, and complaints.

Satellite Leak Detection, which was once considered a 'niche technology', is an innovation whose time has come. This is now making everyone's lives easier and saving tons of resources long term. The onus is now on more water companies to ride the waves of technological change in water leakage detection.

Nick Haskins is a water industry professional of 27 years. After 17 years with Bristol Water, he now applies his expertise and experience with smart and environmental solutions, introducing new technologies into the water industry and working with the vast range of challenges that water companies face around the world.