Dogs enlisted to sniff out water leaks

Water Corporation chief executive officer Sue Murphy and our project engineer Nicola Lazaroo with dogs Tommy and Emma.
Water Corporation chief executive officer Sue Murphy and our project engineer Nicola Lazaroo with dogs Tommy and Emma.

In an Australian-first, the Water Corporation recently conducted a trial in the wheatbelt using two specially trained sniffer dogs to detect hidden leaks in below ground water mains.

The two dogs are being trained as part of a Water Corporation research and development program to smell water when there is a potential break along underground mains.

The utility is investigating whether the dogs can better detect hidden leaks in areas where other detection methods are deemed unsuitable or where human access is difficult.

The dogs, a springer spaniel called Tommy and a cocker spaniel called Emma, are being trained by leading Australian dog trainer Steve Austin.  

Steve has worked with a number of agencies in Australia to train dogs to detect different smells for situations including feral animal control and narcotics detection. 

Water Minister Dave Kelly said it is more challenging to detect a leak from buried pipes.

“With nearly 34,000 kilometres of water mains across our vast State it is important we continue to explore new and innovative methods of detecting hidden leaks,” he said. 

“Leaks in water mains can waste precious water and have the potential to interrupt water supplies to homes and businesses.

“These field trials will not only test the dogs’ ability to sniff out hidden leaks, but they will see how close they need to be to the leak for it to be detected and how many kilometres a day they can travel.”