Artificial intelligence helps stop leaky loos

Image: Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping Welsh Water customers tell whether their toilet is leaking via their smartphone.

The not-for-profit utility has introduced a digital leaky loo reporting service on its website that uses AI and video, along with QR codes, to carry out a remote assessment of customers’ lavatories. Users just need a smartphone with a camera, microphone and good internet connectivity, in a process that takes under five minutes.

According to WaterWise, a leaking toilet wastes between 215 and 400 litres of clean water, on average, every day. For customers on a water meter, that is the equivalent of having a couple of extra people using water in your home.

WaterWise also says that between 5 and 8% of all toilets leak and that the problem is mostly with dual-flush toilets. Around 400 million litres of water is currently estimated to leak from UK toilets every day, enough to supply 2.8 million people – the populations of Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol combined.

"This has not only saved our customers and plumbers time, but has also allowed for our team to work in a more sustainable way, cutting our carbon footprint.”

Euan Hampton, Welsh Water

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s service was developed in partnership with UK technology company Vyntelligence, and means customers no longer need to contact the call centre. Instead, they can use their smartphone to scan a QR code that helps record a short video.

Smart video and audio data capture is used, along with AI powered insights, to identify leakage by the sound and movement of water in the system. Customers are automatically guided to scan the appropriate area of their toilet and a remote triage process, that customers can access themselves, helps pick up loos requiring a plumbing fix.

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water supplies drinking water to over 3 million customers in over 1.4 million homes and business across Wales – that is a lot of toilets. But the story does not end there - preventing leaks not only saves water, it reduces embedded carbon emissions from the treatment and pumping of wasted water.

Euan Hampton, Welsh Water’s programme manager, said, “By digitising the appointment process, we have been able to minimise unnecessary visits. This has not only saved our customers and plumbers time, but has also allowed for our team to work in a more sustainable way, cutting our carbon footprint.”

Improving the efficiency of the triage process and avoiding unnecessary plumber visits was critical to project success. According to Vyntelligence, leaky loo reports were up 95% in three months, with over 600 hours saved in call centre calls.

The partners say reporting issues digitally saves customers time, but it also saves plumbers and engineers making unnecessary site visits, saving further costs and carbon miles.