SNIFFER dogs are being used to help find leaking water mains for the first time in Scotland and have already scored a big success with two discoveries.

Scottish Water is deploying a team of specially trained dogs to help locate leaks in pipes in rural areas where the water does not always show on the surface.

Two spaniels, called Snipe and Denzel, aged two and three, have been trained by ex-military dog handlers to detect the smell of chlorine in treated water.

Denzel had to be re-trained after previously working on detecting bed-bugs for hotel chains.

The dogs are finishing a trial programme surveying Scottish Water’s trunk mains and searching for leaks before the utility decides whether to use them on an ongoing basis.

Craig Garment, a Scottish Water network analyst in leakage delivery, said: “We take our responsibility to manage water very seriously and since 2006 leakage has been reduced by over 50 per cent.

“We use modern technology to pinpoint the exact location of underground assets and leaks, however, some bursts in rural locations are more difficult to pinpoint and we are always looking for innovative ways to do the job more effectively and to continue reducing leakage.

“That’s where the sniffer dogs come in and we are hoping that Snipe and Denzel can continue to demonstrate that their sensitive noses can detect treated mains water at very low concentrations.

“When the dogs help pinpoint the exact locations of leaks we then come back to that point, investigate, excavate and repair the bursts.

“If their work in certain rural locations helps us achieve that, then they could prove to be great assets to Scottish Water.”