Rescue Dog Team Collaborates with Utilis to “Find Leak”

May 13, 2021
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Every so often, we hear a rescue dog story that stops us in our tracks. The story of Vessel, a sleek, black Arkansas retriever discovered in a shelter as having the skills necessary to be a special service dog is one amazing story.

A Rescue Dog and Leak Detection

When the CEO of Central Arkansas Water (CAW) learned about a UK water utility using dogs to sniff out leaks from the potable water system, he started exploring.  A CAW employee put him in touch with a local trainer, who chose Vessel as a Leak Detector Trainee and sent her to train at On the Nose Leak Detection School. Vessel graduated and is now a full-time member of the CAW leak detection team.

The CAW team works with Utilis, a satellite-based leak detection imaging company, to pre-locate leaks in the water distribution system.  Utilizing specialized RADAR signals from satellites, Utilis illuminates the area of interest and collects the resulting reflected signals.  These signals are analyzed and processed to identify specific indicators of soil moisture with potable water. The result is a map showing likely leak locations (LLL), or Points of Interest (POI).  These results typically encompass 5% of the entire system length.  Only locations where there is expected to be a leak are inspected.

Utilis-directed performance at CAW is a nine times improvement over traditional boots-on-the-ground (TBOTG) methods in the number of ground and pipeline leaks found per mile inspected. It is three times better on the leaks per day metric.

Vessel and her handler, Tim Preator, review the Utilis leak maps before beginning their search

Vessel is amazing and is over 90% accurate in leak detection. Watch her in action here. Among the discovered leaks, Vessel found a non-surfacing leak that was under a concrete parking lot. The lot is built over a gravel base, which allowed the water to flow directly into a storm drain.  This leak alone was costing CAW 2.3 MGD.

Rescue Dogs and Technology: Working Together

Dogs possess a sense of smell many times more sensitive than even the most advanced man-made instrument. Vessel and her handler, Tim Preator, the two of them a leak detection team, are sent out to areas identified by Utilis to search for leaks.  Vessel goes to work when given the command, “Find Leak,” and makes a broad sweep of the LLL and then pinpoints the leak.  She shows a passive alert, laying down and barking when a leak is found.  She is rewarded for her efforts with tennis ball play.

Although leak detection has evolved from old school divining rods and listening sticks to space-age satellites, using the innate capabilities found in nature, they can now return back to basics.  Check out ASTERRA at or email  to bring satellite leak detection to your community.

Please contact us to learn more about ASTERRA’s solutions.

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