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Leak detectorist: The true hero of the water ways

Leak detectorist: The true hero of the water ways

white pipe leaking

What on earth is a leak detectorist, we hear you say? The short answer is an incredibly important and vital part of our water supply system. One that you’re probably not aware of, but you’d notice if they weren’t there. Put simple, they are the heroes who work underground all year round.Leaks in our homes are devastating; you’re cooking dinner, and you hear a dripping noise. Suddenly your ceiling is dripping into the pot. There’s nothing more frustrating. But what we don’t see are the leaks that our leak detectorists are working on up and down the country. It’s time to shine a light on the heroes of the underground waterways, some of which ark back to Victorian days.

detecting a leak

A leak detectorist and the leaky community

We have over 200,000 miles of water pipes underground in the UK, making sure that we’ve got high quality fresh drinking water 24/7. That’s enough piping to run round the world over 8 times! So, how does a leak detectorist narrow down the search, when a leak might be caused by a tiny fracture on a pipe? Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of tech involved.

Loggers are a great piece of technology which attach to the pipes and feel for vibrations. When there is a difference in movement, it’s recorded and added to the list of lines to inspect. Leak detectorists also look at the movement in pavements and use satellite images to look at the colour of vegetation (remember leaf discolouration is a sign of overwatering or – a leak!).

All this technology helps narrow down the search area, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Descending underground is where it gets tricky. All year round in freezing temperatures workers are searching for leaks which is why it is so important to report a leak when you suspect one. Check out our  section on our website for more information.

leaking pipe

The never-ending fight against fatbergs

There’s a reason we say only put the three P’s in the loo (pee, paper, poo) and it’s because our underground heroes have to tackle fatbergs regularly. Imagine trying to get to a leak, only to be met with a colossal fatberg made from ‘flushable’ wet wipes, dental floss, cotton buds, and cotton balls. As if the search for a leak wasn’t hard enough!

We won’t make you picture what a fatberg looks like, I’m sure the knowledge of contents and the word ‘fatberg’ is enough – but these gross masses create a lot of problems. Not only do they obstruct the path of our leak detectorist, but they also create more leaks to fix. They prevent the flow of water, that leads to a backlog which, you guessed it, is how pipes end up bursting.

You might remember the fatberg of 2013, a 15-tonne giant that took over six weeks to clear. Now imagine all its little offspring clinging to the pipes around the country. If it’s not pee, paper or poo – it doesn’t belong in your loo!

leaking toilet and blocked toilet roll

How to help your leak detectorist

Repairing leaks and clearing blockages are just a couple of the tasks our underground workers face every day. To get to the stage of repairs, they track and trace issues, dig up the surrounding ground, check water meters, install new pipes, and record all the work carried out, so they know when to revisit the site.

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tubes of paste squeezed and nearly empty

Although most of their work happens in our community, there is a way we can help out. As we have already mentioned, reporting leaks and only flushing the ‘3 P’s’ is a great start but another great way to help is to install a water meter. Your meter can act as a beacon to demonstrate a leak in your home or the surrounding area, plus it could save you money on your water bill!

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