Remote Sensing to Improve Water Management Planning - 17/04/2014

Aqua Enviro’s conference on Remote Sensing for Catchment Management, taking place on 1 May at the Leeds Club in Leeds, UK, will focus on presenting a range of applications from catchment and asset management to more unusual applications such as archaeology, which is of regulatory relevance to the water and environmental sectors.

Remote sensing offers water companies a new way to improve planning in water management. The images provide previously invisible detail that can be applied to a range of uses in water catchment and asset management. In spite of the advances of remote sensing technology, its potential has not been fully utilised and there are great opportunities to benefit from increased accuracy in planning, decision making and efficiency.

An example of remote sensing has just won 'Most Innovative Use of an Existing Technology' at the Water Industry Achievement Awards on 1 April. Digital aerial survey specialists APEM and water Company United Utilities analysed high-tech images taken from aircraft across a 400 square kilometres area of Cumbria. The surveys located 100km of buried pipes and a number of leaks which workmen could fix. Survey aircraft fitted with high-tech thermal and near infra-red sensors produced high-resolution images that detected signs of leaks from buried pipes. One of the ways they identified leaks was through images showing vegetation growing more vigorously in some areas, indicating water presence. It is hoped the technique will be adopted by other UK and overseas water companies looking to reduce leakage.

Aerial survey benefits

APEM director Stuart Clough said maps do not always show the precise locations of buried pipes, which can lead to costly delays and wasted effort when tracing them for repair or inspection. Aerial surveys are cost-effective, can cover huge areas in a single flight, including remote, rough and boggy terrain, and there is no disruption to wildlife. The alternative would be to carry out long and extensive ground-based inspections using vehicles.

Dr Richard Blackwell, supply demand manager for United Utilities, explained that aerial surveys were one of the ways being piloted to tackle hard-to-find leaks but it’s an issue we want to get even better at tackling, especially in areas such as west Cumbria where the water they use comes from some of the region’s most sensitive environments. In rural areas like this, some of theor pipes can be many kilometres long, running through fields, giving extra challenges to overcome when finding leaks which might be hard to spot from above ground.

For more inforomation on the Remote Sensing for Catchment Management conference see here.

Last updated: 05/03/2020