Potable water systems around the world suffer an average of 15-20% leakage rate, resulting in wasted energy usage, contamination or, in the worst cases, critically low availability of drinking water in already stressed areas. ASTERRA (formerly Utilis) developed and patented a new technology that uses reflected signals from L-Band polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (PolSAR) to detect potable water underground up to 2 meters. Using ASTERRA’s proprietary algorithm, potable water can be distinguished from naturally occurring or salt/brackish water. The technology can penetrate foliage and asphalt roadways, allowing detection of water leakage from utility pipes. Once the leaks are identified, field leak inspectors can pinpoint where to search for the source of the problem to repair the damage quickly and with the least possible waste.
ASTERRA’s new technology, called Recover, is a low-cost alternative for finding potable water leaks that is available even to small and rural water agencies, where they frequently had few options. The company works with small and rural utilities to provide custom packages to meet their needs, as these organizations often do not have GIS programs or a formal leak detection program.
Since its inception, ASTERRA’s technology has helped utilities worldwide save over 210,000 million gallons of water, 527,000 MWH of energy and 135,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions by finding and repairing leaks more quickly and efficiently. It does so by identifying leaks at a 40% lower cost than traditional point-to-point inspection methods and a 90% lower cost than fixed base acoustic leak detection systems. The technology is based on a remote pre-location inspection program, so it can be deployed anywhere in the world without requiring capital investment. ASTERRA’s technology also identifies leaks on the customer side of the meter, resulting in direct benefits for customers. Based on the technology’s success, the company developed a system to detect wastewater leakage and exfiltration from sewer lines. For its achievement, ASTERRA received the 2021 American Water Works Association Innovation Award.