Cologne takes to the skies for water

by Karen Dubey, Utilis Corporate Marketing Director



Water utilities across the world struggle with aging infrastructure whether it be roads, bridges, buildings or pipes. Utilis, a technology company based in Israel, has been using satellite data to help assess infrastructure since 2016.  Specifically, Utilis has been using synthetic aperture radar data based on a satellite to detect potable water leaks from pipes underground for water utilities.  Water scarcity is an important issue worldwide, and with estimates that countries lose between ten and fifty percent of their water to leaks, this cannot be overlooked.


RheinEnergie AG, contacted Utilis to help reduce their non-revenue water (NRW) loss.  RheinEnergie AG manages 5650 km of distribution, main and service lines that currently experience an 8% NRW (five-year average).  They supply drinking water to a 520 sq km area within Germany in an area that encompasses the cities of Cologne, Pulheim and Frechen from eight waterworks and two separate water networks.  The pipes are made up of PE, PVC, steel, fiber cement and cast iron, and dimensions are between DN 20 and DN 1000.  The challenge of RheinEnergie AG is to manage such a large network with limited resources, while also limiting water loss within a budget assigned to leak detection.  This led them to contact Utilis and partner KSC, a Utilis Certified Austrian based Leak Detection company. An agreement was entered between involved companies to use satellites to augment their current leak detection efforts.



Figure 1: Utilis dashboard showing the area covered and the results


The project commenced in July and leak detection teams from KSC and the utility spent 9.2 crew-days in the field investigating 39 Utilis-provided POI’s.  During this time, 33 total leaks were found within 24 POI’s.  This was an average of 1.2 leaks found per km and 3.2 leaks per crew-day.

Of these leaks, 19 were on main lines, and 11 on service lines. RheinEnergie AG intends to excavate and repair many of the discovered leaks, and at that time the leak size will be determined, and a volume of water saved can be calculated.  Overall, this project was successful in providing RheinEnergie AG with the opportunity to save them money from reducing future water loss and reducing energy wasted pumping water that will eventually be lost.

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