Leak detection has advanced over the years from wooden listening sticks that were used over 100 years ago. This technology was similar to a stethoscope used by doctors. However, leak inspectors using this method found that it was inefficient and did not accurately pinpoint leaks.
Technology improved from listening sticks to electronic devices used during the 1960s. A device called a ground microphone was used to listen for leaks. This device increased the sound being produced by leaks and made the detection much easier. However, technology had advanced again in the 1970s.
A device called a leak noise correlator allowed leak inspectors to better hear the noise made by leaks in form pipe buried underground. Sensors were used to assess the time of travel of water and the noise made by leaks to better pinpoint the location. Updated technology decreased the size of this device to one that can fit in the palm of the hand from the size of a refrigerator. Leaks that took an hour or more to find were found in a few minutes.
A digital correlator was developed in 2002 to replace older analog models. The digital model allowed a leak inspector to find leaks on pipes made from a variety of materials. They were easier for operators to use and did not require a significant amount of knowledge. One advantage was that there was no loss of data and minimal interference issues.
Ground radar is a newer technology that is being used to detect leaks. This is done by looking at an image of the ground to find any disturbances or cavities around water pipes. A new technology that is in use today to detect leaks uses a sensor array to enhance the sounds made by leaking pipes. Signals are sent from this device into the ground that will then measure the reflection. Leaking water is easily detected by any change in the reflected signal to make pinpointing the location easier.
Being able to pinpoint the location of a leak in an underground pipe reduces the time and effort needed to make a repair.
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