Smart wireless sensor networks for water leak detection

Leaky pipes are a big problem. In 2009-10, the UK alone lost 2,281 mega litres of drinking water due to failure or leaks in water pipelines.

Leaks are especially harmful in countries where water is in scarce supply. However, with global demand for water set to increase for decades to come as climate change threatens water supplies, it is in every country’s interest to find more cost-effective ways of detecting leaks.


Engineers at the University of Birmingham (Ali M. Sadeghioon 1, Dr Nicole Metje , David N. Chapman and Carl J. Anthony) have developed an innovative ‘smartpipes’ system for detecting leaks. The system uses low-cost, low-power sensors to detect water leaks. Unlike conventional leak detection systems, sensors are attached to the outside rather than inside of pipes. This makes them easier to fit and reduces the chances of pipes being damaged during installation.

Field trials

Water leaks produce a change in pressure within pipes. The sensors are capable of detecting even very slight changes in pressure. Messages are relayed radio (RF) signal before being transmitted via the internet to a pipeline monitoring system.

The University worked with UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) to conduct successful field trials of the new technology. As of autumn 2017, the UK water industry was considering how to implement the technology. 

The low cost and ease-of-use of the technology makes SmartPipes an ideal technology for improving how countries, especially low and middle income countries (LMCs), manage valuable water resources.