World first as Southern Water starts roll out of new leak detection technology


Southern Water has started the world’s first mass roll out of a ground-breaking new ‘Internet of Things’ leak detection system in Southampton.

The devices are a crucial tool to support both long and short-term challenges. Water use has soared by as much as 20 per cent in lockdown and hot weather is further driving demand making it a challenge for water to be treated and pumped enough to maintain pressure.

Some 700 new Gutermann ZONESCAN NB-IoT devices will be fitted around the city. Southern Water has pioneered the use of acoustic logger technology in the UK and the latest devices will massively increase our ability to detect leaks before they become bursts.

Southern Water is committed to reducing leaks from its network by 15 per cent over the next five years. Southampton has been chosen for the first wave of devices to support the ten year ‘Water for Life: Hampshire’ resource plan. Hampshire must reduce its reliance on water taken from the iconic chalk streams of the Rivers Test and Itchen. The plan includes massive resource development including the construction of a new reservoir in Havant Thicket in collaboration with Portsmouth Water as well as supporting customers to reduce the amount of water they use through the Target 100 campaign.

“Building new water resources can never be the whole answer to the challenges of population growth and climate change,” says Phil Tapping, Southern Water’s Regional Demand Manager. “Demand reduction and cuts to leakage from our network will be key. And we need to find new ways of tackling leakage – bringing technology to bear is crucial. I’m very proud Southern Water is leading the way.”

Previously, leakage data was either collected manually or by driving past the device or by relying on 2G/3G cellular coverage. 2G/3G was primarily designed for use with mobile phones so has never been an optimum way of transferring small packages of data, “It was like delivering a pizza in a lorry” said Paul Chandler, Gutermann’s Southampton-based UK Sales Manager.

The new devices rely on industry proven Gutermann leak detection hardware and software and the use of the latest NB-IoT (Narrow Band Internet of Things) cellular technology to reliably ensure Southern Water receives its leakage data every day. This then negates the need for manual or “Drive-By” collections therefore reducing Southern Water’s carbon footprint.

Acoustic loggers ‘listen’ at night to the sound of water in our network. The acoustic signatures are wirelessly transmitted to Gutermann’s ZONESCAN Net cloud based service where the files are analysed searching for the tell-tale traces of water being forced through a split or hole in the pipe and every morning a detailed report is sent to Southern Water’s team of Leak Technicians who collate the data and prioritise teams to make repairs.

Southern Water already has 6,000 “Mobile” leak detection devices being used throughout the Southern Water region to help in the reduction of leakage.

Narrow Band-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a standards-based low power wide area (LPWA) technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. NB-IoT cuts power consumption of devices and improves communication connectivity, especially in deep chambers like fire hydrants or valves and so is perfect for this type of installation.

Customers can also help the leakage battle by reporting leaks here.

We aim to exceed our ambitious target to fix 80% of leaks within five days and all leaks within 10 days as we want to reduce the run time from when leaks are found to when they are repaired – subject to authorisation from the Highways Authority where we need to dig in a road or public footpath.

The use of this new technology will enable us to prioritize the leak repair by its location and an estimated volume of water being lost, making it better to coordinate works and cause less disruption to our customers. Learn more here