Jacobs Report: A Case Study on Network Leak Detection at South East Water

September 1, 2023

Executive summary

Water utilities globally are focused on reducing non-revenue water. Water loss leaks and supply interruptions increase operation and capital costs, reduced service performance, and customer dissatisfaction. Most water utilities in Australia and New Zealand are trialling or considering the business case for Digital Metering (DM). DM provides significant efficiency gains, including automated billing and improved customer engagement to reduce demand and detect customer-side leaks.

The deployment of DM for any water utility is considerable and does not assist in identifying physical losses in the network. One approach to locating physical leaks in the network is to include vibration sensors as part of the DM deployment. South East Water (SEW), a large water corporation in Melbourne, Australia, developed the Sotto® network leak detection sensor (Sotto), an innovative technology designed to be integrated into static Digital Meters.

Sotto can be included in the DM deployment at marginal cost, providing early detection of leaks and reduced water loss. A Sotto-based approach provides permanent surveillance of a water network to identify and locate leaks. Water utilities have insights that enable better planning of their maintenance and renewals, ultimately reducing non-revenue water. SEW tested Sotto in a trial deployment of 5,000 Sotto-enabled digital meters in concentrated in 5 suburbs (including suburbs in and surrounding Frankston and Port Melbourne).

SEW found that the trial successfully showed early detection and reduced water loss. Jacobs was engaged in 2022 to review SEW’s findings and extrapolate the results across the wider SEW customer footprint in advance of a submission to the regulator for their next regulatory period. SEW’s business case assumes at least a 1% reduction in water purchased from Melbourne Water is achievable with Sotto-enabled meters.

Jacobs’ analysis determined that installing Sotto sensors will improve the early detection of leaks and meet this target in either a density of one Sotto per property or one every two properties, with the former providing a better return on SEW’s investment. This paper details how Sotto can be useful in network leak identification and location, potential operational changes and the benefit analysis undertaken by Jacobs presented as a case study.

Read the full report here from Jacobs to learn about South East Water’s economical-to-scale approach to minimising network leaks using an Australian innovation.

View report



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Water Utility ChallengesDigital Utility LeversLentic® Enablers
Water scarcity from climate change and population growthReduce water wastage by identifying network leaksEnable an integrated ecosystem that leverages machine intelligence
Meet and exceed environmental regulatory requirementsIncrease digital monitoring of water value chain to improve water quality and reduce environmental impactEnhance data quality and quantity to support regulatory reporting and transparency


Water Utility Challenges Digital Utility Levers Lentic® Enablers
Rising customer expectations Provide customers with relevant on-demand insights through preferred channels, enabling better service experiences Built-in domain knowledge delivers on-demand customisable insights to customers
Affordability Reduce water services costs through innovative demand management and enhanced operational efficiency Support automation of key business processes to enhance customer service delivery and reduce demand


Water Utility Challenges Digital Utility Levers Lentic® Enablers
Optimise asset life and reduce operating costs Visualise performance and manage asset lifecycle in real time while reducing the need to fund additional infrastructure Domain rules applied to predict unknown disruption across assets, by providing high volume of data
Reduce non-revenue water losses Automate identification of network leaks to enable rapid and cost-effective fault resolution Enable integration of field device data across enterprise systems to manage utility response to network leaks and faults
Protect asset security Provide a safe and resilient operating environment reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure Security policy and controls are in place to support continuous monitoring efforts in line with ISO0227001