Satellite technology finds water distribution system leaks

Hilton Head PSD is detecting leaks in our water distribution system from outer space! The PSD recently completed the island’s first-ever satellite based leak detection – resulting in the identification and repair of leaks that saved 7 million gallons of water per year.


Here’s how it works.

First, microwave sensor onboard a satellite acquires images of the PSD service area.
Leaks are detected using an algorithm that can isolate the signature of treated tap water.
This information is then layered over the Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping of the PSD’s water distribution system, creating a set of areas to investigate in the field for possible leaks.

Satellite based leak detection allows the PSD to review our entire distribution system — approximately 245 miles of water mains – at one time, as opposed to former methods that relied solely on field-based approaches. The PSD now can receive updated information on possible leaks using ongoing passes of the satellite. This technology is a wave of the future that will benefit water efficiency on the island for years to come.

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