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Say hello to Kep, our beloved and furry co-worker, and Australia’s first leak detection dog.

Kep is trained to help us find underground leaks using her hearing and sniffing abilities, allowing us to reach areas otherwise inaccessible to other leak detection methods.

Kep sitting amongst wildflowers

As a puppy, Kep underwent 12 weeks of intensive training with a specialist dog trainer in New South Wales before she made the journey to Perth, where she’s been working in the field with us since October 2018.

An English Springer Spaniel, Kep is the daughter of Tommy – an experienced detection dog who took part in our initial trial in June 2017. English Springer Spaniels are often used as sniffer dogs due to their amazing sense of smell, willingness to work hard and ability to cover rough terrain, and our Kep is a testament to this.

Why Kep?

Leak detection dogs are extremely effective and valuable teammates who can cover large areas far quicker than humans, focus for longer and operate with acute senses that equipment can’t compete with.

Kep was recruited to help us detect leaks on underground water mains where regular detection methods are either less effective or cost prohibitive. She works almost exclusively in regional WA in areas where there are long stretches of buried water mains.

Kep is one part of our wider leak detection program, which has been around since 2010 and targets hidden leaks on water mains in both suburban and rural areas. The program is an important, proactive step we take to save our precious water supplies, as we face the impacts of climate change and declining rainfall.

The lowdown on leaks

Leaks are a reality faced by water utilities around the world and we’re tasked with managing nearly 35,000km of water mains across an area of more than 2.6 million kilometres, making us the largest water utility in the world in terms of the geographical area serviced. Much of this is down to innovative detection methods to stop leaks becoming bursts and proactive maintenance.

The significance of "Kep"

When she was first recruited, we sought the help of West Aussies to help us choose a name for our new teammate and (spoiler alert) Kep was the winner! Kep is the Noongar word for ‘water’, a fitting name knowing the significance of water in Aboriginal culture, and Kep’s role in protecting this precious resource.

Learn more about the significance of water in Noongar culture.

Kep the puppy

Keeping Kep safe

Safety is always our first priority and Kep’s well-being is no exception. Kep is accompanied by her qualified handler, Andrew, who is trained in animal ethics and care. Andrew ensures Kep is always feeling her best and gets plenty of water, nourishment and rest breaks. She is also highly obedience trained, so she can listen to Andrew’s cues and keep safe at all times.

Before she gets to work at a new site, Andrew performs an inspection and assessment of the area that she'll be scanning (or sniffing!) to determine if there are any risks or harmful vegetation in that area. If the area presents an issue, Kep won't work until it's safe to do so, or we'll utilise alternative leak detection methods instead. She is also thoroughly checked over between each working run she does to ensure her health.

Kep has been trained to keep at least 5m away from snakes and can sense them coming much sooner than a human.

Paw-some work!

Interestingly, a dog’s paws (and more specifically paw pads) help with stability, so it's in Kep's best interests to be barefoot to prevent unnecessary harm that shoes may cause when she's leaping and bounding on the hunt for the scent.

Out of hours

Kep’s care is more than just a 9-5 job. She’s not only part of Water Corporation but very much a part of Andrew’s family too, to make sure she is provided the care she requires. Kep gets fun time as well as work and training time, regular check-ups and rest.

Andrew Blair and Kep standing by a Water Corporation car
Andrew Blair with Kep