Digital water meters play a critical role in protecting utilities when unexplained water loss occurs. On a recent occasion in Leeton, New South Wales, digital meters were also able to identify a huge leak causing a threat to one of the town’s greatest icons – its main street pub.

It was a bustling Saturday night at the Wade Hotel on the water seep into the basement to avoid build up behind the main street of Leeton, a town located in the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia. During a routine keg change a staff member ventured down to the cellar and found the entire basement flooded up to knee height and water was surging in through a water seepage pipe.

Panic set in over the threat of the most un-Australian outcome in Leeton’s history – a pub with no beer! Luckily the compressors and equipment in the basement were installed on concrete shelves, which rested just above the water level, inches from disaster.

Outside the Wade Hotel in Leeton. Image/Taggle

Upon investigation, it was found that the sump pump in the basement had been operating non-stop for 24 hours, emptying water, but it had now failed.

The cellar was designed with a 32mm pipe hole in the basement wall, which was designed to let natural ground wall, which would cause structural damage. Normally after rainfall, this would be a trickle of groundwater, but tonight it was streaming in from behind the wall at full speed through that 32mm pipe.

This was definitely not normal, and since it hadn’t rained there could only be one explanation. This was a water leak, and a big one, which was now flooding the basement.

With the failed sump pump, the basement was gradually filling up with water and would soon flood the pub, ruin the equipment, and potentially cause major structural damage to the iconic Wade Hotel. Perhaps worst of all, the pub staff couldn’t change the keg, cutting patrons off from their supply of liquid gold.

So the Leeton Shire Council water team set to work to search for the source of the leak – but where to start?

The pub has a digital water meter installed, so staff checked Taggle Systems Customer Portal, but no issues showed up at

Inside the pub in Leeton. Image/Taggle

the property. This indicated it was highly likely a water main issue, especially with that amount of water. One of the main town reservoirs sits within 500 metres of the pub, and five different water mains all cross within 100m of the pub. There is also an irrigation main running down the main street right outside. Any of these could be the source of a major leak of this nature – but which one, and where to start looking?

Outside, above ground, everything was calm, there were no signs of water anywhere so council staff got to work. First, they checked all the stop valves pits for signs of water on the mains and irrigation lines, figuring that any burst would be obvious at one of the stop valves. However, after an exhaustive search nothing was found. They tested the water in the cellar for chlorine and found it chlorine-free, which meant that it was most likely the irrigation main. They isolated the main street irrigation main but water kept flowing in as strong as ever.

After an exhaustive effort over five hours, the leak remained elusive. In desperation the council backhoe driver offered to start digging, but even then, he needed to know where to start digging.

Luckily, the sump pump in the pub was able to be restarted and keep up with the inflow, allowing the kegs to be changed.

The council team were able to retreat to sleep and wait for Monday to restart the search, with additional leak detection equipment being organised.

Come Monday morning there was still no indication of any surface water, and the mystery of the huge leak remained unsolved. The backhoe driver was told to get ready to dig. Digging up the streets to find and fix a water main leak could cost anywhere between $15,000 and $100,000, depending on the size and location of the leak, and how many “false digs” would be required.

Back at the office, staff logged into Taggle’s Aqualus Water system to review if the digital water meter network could share any insights. From the residential and commercial leak report it was immediately obvious that a nearby property had a major leak of more than 2000 litres per hour! This was not a mains leak after all, but a huge leak at a commercial property on their incoming service line.

The team went directly to site, and equipped with acoustic leak detection tools, they found the leak was under the property car park. Over 2000 litres per hour was gushing underground down the rock sheet, and straight to the pub basement wall, where it found the seep hole and rushed in.

The property owner also noted that he had just received a leak notification SMS from the system, so he was happy to see council there to help fix it.

The team immediately isolated the property, and stopped the water flow, and then with the agreement of the owners, the team went to work, and dug up the car park to fix the leak.

Crisis averted, and the beer was saved!

Without digital water meters the leak may not have been found for some time, putting extreme pressure on the sump pump in the basement and putting the precious beer at risk. The leak was quantified at 166,770 litres total over three and a half days. Had it not been found so quickly, that amount of water would have led to infrastructure and equipment damage within the pub before too long.

Gerard Simms, Information Technology Manager at Leeton Shire Council, noted that when installing the digital water meters in Leeton, they had many examples where the data they received was able to be used to solve many problems, and save costs across the network. But, he added, “I never thought our digital water meters would also save the beer! Cheers to that Taggle!”

Featured image: the basement of the Wade Hotel in Leeton was flooded up to knee level. Image/Taggle

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