ESA title


  • ACTIVITYFeasibility Study
  • STATUSCompleted
  • THEMATIC AREAInfrastructure & Smart Cities

Objectives of the service

The UK water industry is heavily regulated by the Office of Water Services (OFWAT), with significant fines (or rewards) being issued for under (or over) performance as part of the sector’s Outcome Delivery Incentive. During 2018-19 the sector incurred £108 million of underperformance payments, of which £69 million was incurred for underperformance on leakage, supply interruptions, internal sewer flooding, and pollution incidents. Inspection and monitoring of the network is challenging and costly, and maintenance budgets are stretched. Pipe failure risk modelling is used to prioritise maintenance efforts, based on a multitude of data, including pipe parameters and third party data.

Direct ground movement measurements are currently not included in this risk modelling. SatSense has a country wide ground movement product able to measure movement rates down to 1 mm/year with high resolution. The objective of this project is to identify movements relevant to pipe failure risk and include this data into strategic modelling and operational workflows of water utilities and contractors.

Users and their needs

The targeted customers and users are water utilities and their contractors. SatSense data will allow them to:

  • Make better long term strategic maintenance decisions based on strategic risk modelling
  • Take action based on short-term changes in ground movement based on water infrastructure specific ground movement maps
  • Use these same maps to inform maintenance crews and inspectors whether ground movement is a like cause of a failed pipe

This will lead to a better-informed decision-making process and a more targeted approach to pipe maintenance and failure repair, preventing events and reducing costs.

Service/ system concept

SatSense processes all available ESA Sentinel-1 data over the UK and converts this into ground movement products. There are over 700 million measurement points over the UK, all kept up-to-date with newly acquired data. Each measurement point has long term movement rates accurate to 1 mm/year, and a full time history of movement measurements with a measurement frequency of six days.

This ground movement data contains valuable information for water utilities, which we extract by further post-processing. This will feed into an online visualisation platform accessible from anywhere with an internet connection for use by crews in the field and in operational settings. These data products will also feed into the strategic failure risk modelling, improving the prioritisation of pipe maintenance and reducing failure rates.

Space Added Value

SatSense uses radar data from the Sentinel-1 satellite constellation to infer ground movements and create our ground movement product. As part of the processing, SatSense corrects for topography, for which they use the Copernicus Digital Elevation Model, which is derived from various satellites by ESA.

Current Status

SatSense has completed work on defining the business case in February 2022. Over the last 9 months, they’ve worked closely with two water utilities to correlate their UK-wide ground movement product and investigate the effects on pipe failure risk modelling. The map above shows the water infrastructure classified in terms of ground movement risk. SatSense has been able to show that their ground movement data has predictive power in terms of pipe failure, and backtesting by the water utility shows that the ground movement data improves burst failure prediction by 40%.

SatSense also identified operational use of the ground movement data as a value add. Working together with key personnel at the two water utilities involved, SatSense has been designing an operational dashboard layout, to demonstrate how the data could be used in the field and behind the desk by operational teams. The above image shows one part of the dashboard. SatSense collected feedback from several people working within the target teams at the involved water utilities and received good feedback and useful areas for development.

Based on the above technical work, SatSense has been able to estimate the value to water utilities of using the ground movement data, for the two water utilities involved, and for the average water utility in the UK. SatSense also analysed the cost to deliver the service, and quantify the viability. The cost/benefit ratio to the water utilities at the envisaged price point means that the service is deemed to be very viable. SatSense also expects to be able to market this solution internationally, further increasing the service viability.

SatSense is very encouraged by the outcome of the study, and aims to continue developing a solution to integrate ground movement data into the water industry workflow. SatSense is currently working on obtaining additional funding for a pilot project, and has brought another water utility and a tier-1 contractor on-board to work on this project.

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 17 February 2022