NZ’s first leak detection puppies learning to sniff out wasted water

For the first time in New Zealand, Watercare is training dogs to find hidden leaks in the underground water network.

The Auckland Council-controlled agency has adopted three cross Collie siblings, Flo, Piper and Awa.

The 6 month old pups, given water-related names by Watercare staff, were adopted by the Auckland Puppy Rescue after being abandoned in the far north.

Flo and Piper had their tails illegally docked by a previous owner.

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They are currently undergoing intensive training five days a week at the Watercare facility in Māngere, South Auckland.

Flo, Piper and Awa are siblings and were adopted by Auckland Puppy Rescue.

Abigail Dougherty / stuff

Flo, Piper and Awa are siblings and were adopted by Auckland Puppy Rescue.

The pups learn to sniff out the chlorine that is used to disinfect drinking water.

“People have to walk up and down the street twice to look for vibration, but the dogs can sniff the chlorine and quickly find a leak,” said Richie Rameka, Head of Maintenance Services Networks at Watercare.

It is more difficult for people to detect leaks when there is vibration from vehicles or construction noise in areas like the city center, Rameka said.

Watercare is training New Zealand's first leak detection puppies that can sniff out leaking chlorine gas.

Abigail Dougherty / stuff

Watercare is training New Zealand’s first leak detection puppies that can sniff out leaking chlorine gas.

Dogs are expected to sniff out small leaks that humans cannot find before they get bigger.

They can then be repaired and prevent huge amounts of water from being wasted.

The program is already running in other countries such as the UK, the United States and Australia.

According to foreign media, one dog, Kep, saved about 197 million liters in one year of work in Western Australia – about 80 Olympic swimming pools.

Flo, Piper and Awa train on a makeshift road created by Watercare.

It has its own underground water network and holes are made in the pipes for the dogs to discover.

The dogs should be on the field by the end of 2021.

Abigail Dougherty / stuff

The dogs should be on the field by the end of 2021.

The leak detection dog trainer Freyja Kanwstubb is currently training the dogs basic social skills and obedience behavior for use in the field.

“I train them for an hour twice a day. I go for a walk with them to get used to the people. “

Suzanne Naylor, Head of Water Value at Watercare, said the agency worked closely with their counterparts overseas to best train the dogs.

“We’ve wanted to do this for a while and that was the best opportunity.”

Upon graduation, Flo, Piper and Awa will be hitting the streets of Auckland.

That is expected by the end of this year.

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