WORTHING, UK – Utility Southern Water is trialling the SmartBall acoustic sensor system in its latest crackdown on water leakage.
Provided by partners Pure Technologies and Water Resource Centre, the ball is equipped with an acoustic sensor which can detect tiny variations in the flow down a pipe which might indicate the smallest of leaks or even a crack that has yet to leak.
The acoustic sensors which can 'hear' a leak of as little as 0.11 litres/min and other detectors inside the ball can spot unevenness in pipes and pockets of air in a pipe.
Housed in a foam packaging, the SmartBall is squeezed through one of the valves on a water main and is rushed along by pressure for up to 12 hours.
Below you can see a video on how the system works.
Southern Water said in its current trials, the ball stays in the pipe for shorter periods but actually transmits data to the surface where it is collected by computer. The ball can then be grabbed at another valve or caught with a net where the pipe pours into a reservoir.
Previous efforts by the utility have enabled it to know if a pipe has a leak by measuring flows at each end.
“Locating the exact spot without digging up an entire street has been very tricky until now even with modern 'acoustic loggers' which attach to valves and listen for the tell-tale gurgles of a leak,” said the water utility.
Southern Water’s technical team have nicknamed the SmartBall as ‘The Dude’ – a fictional character from the cult film, The Big Lebowski.