Danny has a nose for water leaks

Danny, the English springer spaniel, of Bellden Environmental Services

It might be Take Your Dog to Work Day today (25 June), but one dog always welcome back at Unitywater any time will be English springer spaniel Danny.

In a Unitywater-first, the utility recently called in the water leak detection dog to help find a problem leak.

With a fast-flowing creek and extensive, rough terrain to navigate, the Unitywater Network Engineering team were open to an innovative way to detect an underground leak.

Unitywater called in Danny, the English springer spaniel, and handler Ryan Lawrie, of Bellden Environmental Services, to assist.

Unitywater Executive Manager Customer Delivery Rhett Duncan said the utility was committed to delivering high quality, safe and reliable water services to the community and to help save our most precious resource.

“We use a combination of automated remote monitoring to detect leaks, as well as on-the-ground crews inspecting valves and testing water pressure to maintain our network and minimise leaks that can cause disruptions,” Mr Duncan said.

“But this case presented unique circumstances and highlights that we will do everything we can to provide a continuous supply of water to our customers.”

Using methods including acoustic loggers, the Unitywater Network Engineering Team had narrowed the search to a 1.9km section of hilly terrain outside of Maleny.

Danny, one of only about four water leak detection dogs in Australia, and less than 10 worldwide, is trained to sniff out chlorine in treated water.

Mr Duncan said Danny found where the main leak was presenting on the surface, which was about 100 metres from the leak in the pipe.

“He was spot on in that regard,” Mr Duncan said.

“Usually leaks will rise to the surface, however, in the instance of the main leak we were looking for, the leaking water was presenting a fair way from the actual trunk water main.”

Although trudging up and down a Maleny hillside seems like a lot of work, Mr Lawrie said for Danny it was all fun and games.

“At the end of the day the only reward that he wants is a ball, so all of this is just for a ball, it’s all just fun for him,” Mr Lawrie said.

Bellden has two English springer spaniels that use chlorine and fluoride as their target scents.

“With any sort of treated water in any urban area, it’s going to have some level of chlorine and fluoride in it,” Mr Lawrie said.

“He’ll be able to discern the chlorine and fluoride from rainwater and tank water just because it’s a very distinct smell for him. He breaks it down on a molecular level.”

If customers notice a leak on public property, such as water leaking on the road or a burst water main, report a fault online at www.unitywater.com/faults-and-outages/report-a-fault-online