NSW government using dogs to find leaks in water network

By Shannon Jenkins

June 1, 2020

“I find this smell nicer, though.” Adobe

The New South Wales government is using specially trained dogs to detect hidden leaks in Sydney’s wastewater networks.

Cocker Spaniel Winnie and English springer spaniel Ziggy are the first dogs in Australia to sniff out leaks and odours in the wastewater network, according to water, property and housing minister Melinda Pavey.

“Winnie and Ziggy will help us to find and fix-hidden leaks from the 26,000 kilometres of wastewater network, which if left undetected can lead to overflows into our creeks, waterways and the environment,” she said on Monday.

“As far we know, no other water utility around the world has trained dogs to detect leaks and odours at levels as low as these dogs can detect. Winnie and Ziggy are able to identify the presence of sewage in minute concentrations, even when we might think it is okay.”

She said the initiative would complement Sydney Water’s existing approaches to improving its water and wastewater services.

Sydney Water general manager of customer, strategy and engagement, Maryanne Graham, said the use of dogs overcomes barriers posed by regular methods.

She noted dog trainer Steve Austin would also be working with a new puppy, Splash, to find leaks in the water network from the smell of chlorine, which is used to disinfect drinking water.

“Hidden leaks on the water network can turn into major breaks and if we can identify them early, we can reduce water wastage, which is essential regardless of whether we’re in drought or not,” she said.

Sydney Water manages a network of more than 50,000 kilometres of water and wastewater pipes across Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains and the Illawarra. It reports to Pavey and state Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.

During the drought, the statutory state owned corporation increased its number of frontline crews responding to water main breaks, and doubled proactive inspections on the water and wastewater network. Last month it released a digital tool called The Water Wise Coach to educate people on ways to become more water efficient at home.

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