In a bid to save millions of litres of water being leaked from water pipes, Yorkshire Water will install a world record 34,000 ‘acoustic ears’ into its underground pipe network to audibly detect any water escapes.

£10m will be invested by the firm to install the sound devices to help meet a target to reduce leakage by 15 per cent by 2020, and a further 25% by 2025.

During a trial of the technology, 600 of the devices installed in the pipe network in West Yorkshire helped to identify 35 leaks in one month, which helped to save approximately 86,400 litres of water from being wasted.

Following that success, Yorkshire Water will now proceed to install 34,000 more of the devices by October this year covering 20 per cent of its water distribution areas. This will bring its total count to 40,000, more than any other water company in the world.

Martyn Hattersley, Head of Leakage Operations at Yorkshire Water, said: “Each acoustic ‘ear’, or logger, is capable of identifying a leak within a 150 meters radius, which is much more accurate than current technology allows. It will give us a much greater understanding and visibility of what is happening in some of the areas most prone to leaks. By installing these devices we will help our Leakage Technicians save millions of litres of water being wasted which will improve our water sustainability and reduce roadwork impact on customers.”

How the acoustic loggers work is by listening continuously to the flow of the water through a pipe. If any variants in noise occur, an alarm is set off which alerts Yorkshire Water’s data analyst team. The data experts then analyse the noise to determine if it indicates a leak in the pipe and if so a leakage technician is sent out to find the precise location and raise work to repair the pipe within an average of 6 days.

Yorkshire Water’s innovation team is currently working with the open data community by sharing sound files with them to better understand the sound profile of a leaky pipe, which will help its own analysts detect leaks.