Articles & Case Studies

Location! Location! Location! – problem solved

Posted: Monday 7th June 2010

Avalanche rescue technology is helping Sutton and East Surrey Water find the answer to a growing problem.

“Every year we install many kilometres of new mains in rural parts of our supply area. We are also changing many of our rural water meters over to radio-read to increase efficiency. Then, sometimes in as little as six months, vegetation takes over, and all evidence of the location of a water meter or a mains fitting is hidden deep in the undergrowth.

“We may not need to visit the location again for some years, so finding the access point to an underground meter or valve can often be a real problem,” explained Jeremy Heath, Development Engineer for Sutton and East Surrey Water.

But thanks to proven avalanche rescue technology, this problem could now be a thing of the past. Sutton and East Surrey Water has been running a successful pilot testing a RECCO® rapid location system, used worldwide by 600 rescue organisations.

Although emergency services already use the RECCO technology, it is believed to be the first time that a water utility has adopted the harmonic radar system for location finding.

The system works by giving an audible response to a detecting radar signal ‘bounced back’ from a reflector placed in the underground location. Nowadays, skiers often have such RECCO reflectors integrated into their clothing, helmets or boots to assist their rescue should an avalanche strike.

“We obviously keep records of where we site our mains and meters, and GPS systems can help narrow down the area of search, but if you need to shutdown a valve quickly in the middle of a field in the middle of the night to avoid supply disruption to customers then this sort of rapid location technology really comes into its own,” said Jeremy Heath.

“At key sites and in the more rural areas, I think this technology could prove very useful. The other benefits are that there is no battery to run down in the reflector, the equipment is very easy to use, and training takes only a few minutes.”

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