News Briefs: Regional Manager Calls Cocker Spaniel 'Invaluable Asset' for Leak Detection

In this week's sewer and water news, a utility releases a video of a cocker spaniel sniffing out water leaks; and a study questions the sustainability of "shade balls" as a water conservation approach

United Utilities in northwest England loses a reported 116 million gallons per day from leaks, and it recently turned to a 21-month-old cocker spaniel named Snipe it has been training since last year to try and alleviate the problem. Municipal Sewer & Water first reported on the dog back in March.

Snipe has been trained to detect tiny amounts of chlorine found in tap water, and the dog will be used in rural areas where leaks are hardest to detect. Owner Ross Stephenson says he started Snipe off with normal tap water and started putting in extra chlorine levels to make it stronger during training.

“So we just put a tiny bit of that in, so the dog understands the strongest odor is the one we want them to find,” he tells the Daily Mail. “We would have eight glass pots, one of them will have it in and every time the dog sniffs that pot he will get rewarded — a tennis ball. What I had to do was take the pots outside first and start doing it in different environments and then I would take the pots away and then ended up having normal tap water, pouring it on the ground and getting the dog to search that.”

United Utilities’ regional leakage manager, Hannah Wardle, says Snipe is an “invaluable asset,” especially in the wet region they operate in. “Sorting the leaks from the puddles, especially out in the fields, can be a real challenge,” she tells the Daily Mail.

Get a look at Snipe in action in the video below: 

Back in 2015, Municipal Sewer & Water mentioned a story about 96 million shade balls being poured into the Los Angeles Reservoir in an effort to curb evaporation and conserve water during a record-setting drought. But now, a study has surfaced calling into question the project’s sustainability.

The team of scientists — from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Imperial College London and University of Twente in the Netherlands — is reporting that it may take more water to produce the shade balls than what they’re saving Californians.

The study estimated it could take between 1 and 2.5 years for shade balls to begin paying off in general, meaning Los Angeles’ project is just now starting to save more water than the balls cost to produce.

After nine years without a rate increase, Las Cruces (New Mexico) Utilities is proposing an increase that would provide $3.8 million more annually.

In an explanation to ratepayers, the utility used examples of the four largest upcoming capital projects: a $9.95 million project to replace infrastructure during road construction; a $2.48 million project to increase water system capacity; a $6.32 million project to increase capacity and efficiency; and a $5.18 million project to replace aging infrastructure, and build separate water and wastewater laboratories.

Meanwhile, the utility says operating costs like those for wages, salaries and benefits, maintenance materials and equipment, vehicles, and debt service have all increased.


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