From the first report offering evidence that water existed on Mars, scientific dreams grew. Does this mean Mars can support life? Is there life on Mars? Can we colonize the planet? Will my grandchildren be able to visit Mars?
While most of the dreaming looked outward toward the possibilities in space, another group of “dreamers” looked inward and asked, “how can we marry the discovery of water on Mars with the water crisis here on Earth?” The answer was relatively simple: let’s share the technology.
Today, the satellite imaging technology used to detect subterranean water on other planets is being integrated into the mix of technologies (various software programs, flow monitoring and acoustic devices) used to detect water leaking from buried water pipes on Earth. American Water is currently piloting these technologies in four states and seeing the satellite’s unique advantages including:
- The ability to check out thousands of square miles of water distribution channels at one time.
- Zeroing in on a leak within a radius of just a few meters.
- Estimating the size of the leak, with leaks as small as 0.02 gallons per minute being able to be detected.
- Detecting leaks 6-15 feet below ground, before they have surfaced.
- “Overlooking” water sources such as lakes and pools in order to focus on water delivery pipelines.
- Leak detection without needing “forces in the field.”
- Extreme cost effectiveness; no work is needed to adapt existing water networks for leak detection.
The satellite technology and the ways it is fully automated are fascinating, and I encourage you to read more in this article for a greater appreciation of what it can mean for water conservation and infrastructure upgrades.
The cost of leaking infrastructure—both the dollar and cents as well as the cost to the preservation of our most precious natural resource—is an enormous one. It is estimated that 240,000 water main breaks occur per year in the United States, wasting over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water. In addition estimates indicate that more than 1 trillion gallons of water which has been pumped, treated and transported at an incredible expense leak from U.S. homes each year, with another 2.6 trillion gallons of treated water being lost annually through leaky pipes before it even reaches consumers.
Like so many of our toughest water issues, early leak detection and repair requires a collaborative effort, with different experts and technologies working together to maximize their advantages. Today, the aerospace and water industries are working together. Tomorrow, who knows? We may just be repurposing what we learn on Earth for water systems on Mars!