A TEAM of adorable dogs is sniffing out water leaks across Scotland.

Springer Spaniels Kilo and Denzel, Cocker Spaniel Mylo, and Labrador-Cocker Spaniel cross Tico have been trained by ex-military dog handlers to detect the scent of chlorine from broken pipes.

The dogs have already found 21 suspected leaks across the Borders and East Lothian, with 12 of these leaks determined by Scottish Water to be real.

The National: Leak detection dog Kilo is one of four on the team used by Scottish WaterLeak detection dog Kilo is one of four on the team used by Scottish Water (Image: Scottish Water)

Stewart Hamilton, a Scottish Water customer services operations team manager, said: “We use modern technology such as ground microphones, correlators, hydrophones and other devices to pinpoint the exact location of underground assets and leaks.

“However, some bursts in rural locations are more difficult to pinpoint and we are always looking for innovative ways to do the job more effectively and to continue reducing leakage.

“That’s where these sniffer dogs come in, because their sensitive noses can detect treated mains water at very low concentrations.

“When the dogs help pinpoint the exact locations of leaks we then come back to that point, investigate, excavate and repair the bursts.”

Traditional methods of detecting leaks, such as higher than normal flow rates through a stretch of mains pipe, are used to identify the general area of the burst.

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The dogs are then brought in to find the exact location of the leak, being drawn to the scent of treated mains water.

Scottish Water now plans to deploy the dog team to other rural locations across Scotland.

Mylo, one of the dogs in the team, is a rescue from the Dog's Trust.

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Dogs on the team alert handlers to the possible presence of chlorinated water in a search area, with the handlers then performing a spot test to see if the finding is accurate.

If the dog's finding is right, Scottish Water is notified – and the dog's handler throws a ball as a reward.

Hamilton added: “It is often very difficult in wet, boggy terrain to source leaks, but dogs are part of the solution. We call in the team when we see an increase in flows in our data.

“It’s really effective using the dogs in rural and remote areas and when the weather is wet. The handlers walk the mains, following a mains app, and the dogs are very efficient and differentiate between the smells of surface water and treated water.”

Dogs have long been used by border services, the police and the military to assist in various detection roles.

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However, using dogs to detect water leaks is a relatively new phenomenon, with the first companies launching to provide the services in the late 2010s.

The service is provided to Scottish Water by Cape SPC, a Warrington-based firm which owns the dogs.

Luke Jones, managing director of Cape SPC, said: “The dogs’ noses are an amazing tool that can be used in many different situations.

“The dogs’ sense of smell is about 40 times greater than human beings’ because they have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared with our six million. 

"They are trained by scent association and rewarded for smelling chlorine, which rises to the surface from pipes, with ‘prizes’ of balls, toys or treats.

“We really enjoy this work with Scottish Water and we hope that the dogs can be used to help locate leaks in more parts of the rural network going forward."