A team of leak detectives have located and sealed more than 18,000 hidden pipe leaks in the Northwest over the past 12 months – using a device that has been in use since the Victorian era.
The 140-person United Utilities team saved an average of 900 million liters of water – the equivalent of 360 Olympic-size swimming pools – by using wooden “listening sticks”.
The long wooden sticks with a trumpet-style end vibrate when a leak is detected, producing a distinctive sound. They have been in use for over 100 years and are still a staple for modern leak engineers.
Many of the more unnecessary leaks are underground and hidden, forcing the team to rely on good hearing, old-fashioned know-how, and the latest digital technology to find them.
Digital sensors and remote-controlled pressure monitoring equipment are also used to turn the tide on hidden leaks.
Many leaks are detected late at night, when reducing traffic noise makes it easier to hear the sound of escaping water.
Hannah Wardle, United public services The leak manager said: “We have spotted and stopped thousands of leaks over the past 12 months, using a combination of proven old-fashioned techniques and cutting-edge technology.
“These leaks are often hidden under the streets, without any visual sign that the water is wasted. We track a lot of them at night, when it’s easier to hear the water leaking out.
“We encourage our customers to save water around the house because it makes good economic and environmental sense. Our nightly battle against hidden leaks is a way to keep our own house tidy. “
Members of the public who spot leaks on the road or sidewalk can report them to United Utilities by filling out a leak form on the company’s website – unitedutilities.com – or by calling 0800 330033.