Acoustic loggers hit the right note for United Utilities

The water company is installing 100,000 auditory devices on its underground supply network to listen out for leaks

Pathway to COP26 report

United Utilities is investing £30 million to install 100,000 acoustic microphones, or loggers, in a bid to reduce water leakage.

The water company claims it is the biggest “listening” project of its kind in the world, with the technology to be rolled out over the next two years on its underground water supply network.

An acoustic logger is a small device that would fit in the palm of a hand and is installed directly onto the fittings of a water pipe.

The loggers “listen” for the characteristic noise waves that are transferred through pipe walls by a leak and upon detection of the sound, they send an alarm to the water company’s integrated control centre, following which analysts can send engineers to pinpoint the leak and repair it.

A trial of the technology last year, when United Utilities installed 2,000 loggers in Liverpool and Manchester city centres, helped the company save up to five million litres of water a day.

Under the first phase of the latest project, 44,000 loggers will be installed across the North West this summer, at a cost of £14 million.

Kevin Fowlie, United Utilities’ Network Delivery Director said: “We have one of the largest and oldest water supply networks in the UK and it’s a constant battle to keep on top of leaks. Many leaks never show on the surface so it is a round-the-clock challenge to find and fix them.

“Following the extreme dry weather last year, we’ve seen leakage rates increase due to ground movement. We have doubled our leakage detection and repair resource to meet our leakage targets and now we need to go even further.

“Our customers have told us it is one of the issues most important to them so we have committed to a 20% reduction in leakage over the coming five-year investment period and that means using the latest innovations. By 2020, we will have the largest estate of acoustic logger technology in the world. Every quarter of a mile on our water network we will be able to glean real-time data, allowing us to respond faster and more accurately when a pipe begins to leak.”

Latest Podcast