Speed is essential when plugging Europe’s water leaks

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Speed is essential when plugging Europe’s water leaks


Whenever I see an emergency water leak repair team pull up with their flashing hazard lights, I always take a sneak peek to see if the team is using our rugged Panasonic TOUGHBOOK notebook or tablet devices. The leaks usually start as just a trickle of water bubbling up from a crack in the road or pavement but very quickly that trickle can turn into a geyser-like fountain. A concerned resident calls the water supplier, and an emergency team is despatched to shut off the local supply, find the leak and fix it. It’s an everyday occurrence across the cities, towns and villages of Europe but one that is becoming more and more of a concern.

Water stress affects 20% of the European territory and 30% of the European population on average every year, according to the latest report from the European Environment Agency. In addition, droughts cause economic damage of up to EUR 9 billion annually and additional unquantified damage to ecosystems and their services.

Things are also expected to worsen. Droughts are increasing in frequency, magnitude and impact. Climate change is projected to cause seasonal reductions in water availability in most parts of Europe. The strongest impact is expected in southern and south-western Europe. With a 3°C temperature rise, water in some rivers is expected to reduce by up to 40% at the height of summer. Large parts of western and central Europe will also be affected, albeit to a lesser degree.


Water losses vary dramatically across Europe

One of the major issues exacerbating the water shortage is water leaks. Water losses vary greatly across Europe and the EU, with average losses in the supply chain ranging from less than 5% to over 50% of water abstracted. Although it sounds easy to say just plug the leaks, finding the source of leaks is often a major headache for suppliers, particular in densely populated areas. The water infrastructure is so old in some parts of Europe that maps showing the exact path of the pipes do not exist and the teams have to physically dig down to discover the exact location of the pipes.

The issue has become such a continent-wide concern that legislation in the form of the Drinking Water Directive was introduced by the EU in 2020. It provides a framework for each individual country to assess its water availability, as a critical first step in then addressing leaks. It’s a start but what are water companies doing to effectively address leaks today?


Many ways to plug the leak

The techniques vary incredibly. In Western Australia, its Water Corporation trained and used Kep, the nation’s first water detection dog, to find leaks. He can cover 5km of pipe in a day – where it would take up to a week for people with acoustic detection equipment to cover the same distance.

But whether the detection method is man’s best friend, satellite imagery looking for damp spots on the ground or the traditional audio detection methods, the latest mobile computing technology is helping to fix leaks fast when they are found.

Rugged notebooks and tablets like Panasonic TOUGHBOOK are designed for use in this difficult environment. They are used for GPS and accessing infrastructure maps to ensure water can be switched off quickly upon arrival at the leak site, right through to completing the reports at the end of the repair.

Europe may still have some way to go to solving its water problems but whatever the long-term solution, the technicians will have a reliable mobile computing device at their side to assist in locating and fixing the leaks.

Find out how rugged devices can assist utility companies.

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