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TRC Accepted as NASA Satellite Data Early Adopter

The NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) Mission, an earth-observing satellite program launching soon, has accepted TRC as an Early Adopter to make use of radar data. TRC will use this data to cost-effectively identify underground leaks from drinking water pipes, helping our clients conserve drinking water, reduce overall energy use and streamline infrastructure repairs.

TRC will analyze radar data to help conserve drinking water and energy by identifying underground leaks.

The NISAR satellite, scheduled to launch in 2024, is a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). NISAR will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces and ice masses providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications.

The NISAR mission has put out a call for Early Adopters to make use of the satellite’s data. Early Adopters must have a clearly defined need for NISAR data and will provide important feedback to the NISAR team regarding the use of data for existing applications, especially those related to climate.

TRC was accepted as an Early Adopter by identifying an existing use that would benefit from NISAR data:  conserving drinking water by locating underground leaks from pipes. We plan to use NISAR data to help clients with water conservation, energy efficiency and climate resiliency.

The Challenge: Identifying Underground Water Leaks

As part of our Advanced Energy practice, TRC supports water and energy utilities with engineering and consulting solutions, helping clients save resources through infrastructure enhancements and energy efficiency programs. An important part of our utility work is providing solutions for water leaks. Because it takes energy to treat, pump and clean water, saving water saves energy.

The potential for water savings in the U.S. is massive. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that every day nearly six billion gallons of treated drinking water is lost due to leaking municipal water main pipes in the U.S.

Water loss can have multiple consequences for utilities, including system contamination, decreased revenue, undue stress on source water supplies, unnecessary capital improvements, customer service disruption, and excessive production costs. Due in part to leaks and aging infrastructure, the EPA estimates that the U.S. will need to spend up to $200 billion dollars over the next 20 years to upgrade transmission and distribution systems.

As part of our ongoing work for a large Midwest electric utility, TRC’s engineers researched the most efficient ways to find water leaks. Knowing that satellite radar data could be used to identify underground drinking water leaks, our team proposed mapping leaks for the entire utility territory. This whole-territory aggregated approach would be significantly more cost effective than the current methods for finding and repairing leaks. But acquiring satellite data for a large territory was a challenge.

The Solution: Using NISAR Satellite Data to Locate Leaks

The NISAR satellite will deploy the first radar of its kind in space to systematically map Earth, using two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes of our planet’s surface, including movements as small as a centimeter. The NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) Mission will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces and ice masses providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications. NASA has identified water resource monitoring as a key application for NISAR data.

NISAR data will be available soon and TRC is proud to be an Early Adopter. TRC will use NISAR data to assist with resource planning efforts for water infrastructure repairs. This application of this technology has the potential to dramatically increase the efficiency of repairs, as it will allow early detection and repair of underground leaks; a utility will no longer have to wait until the leak has surfaced.

Goals and Results: Water Mapping Applications for Utilities Nationwide

TRC’s goal as a NISAR early adopter is to help states, counties and utilities save water, energy and capital by identifying underground drinking water leaks through satellite-provided data. In doing so, TRC intends to create a reproducible process that can be used by utilities nationwide. Potential mapping applications include:

  • Data set overlay: Using a water leak location map, a county or state can overlay additional information and then make informed decisions about where to put resources to reduce leaks. Additional overlay information could include economically disadvantaged zones, high-water loss areas and critical infrastructure such as power plants.
  • Critical water source analysis: Mapping all water pipes from a critically low water source can identify waste and help save precious resources.
  • Water losses by territory: Using this map, a utility or government body can use data to enable large scale decision-making about where to prioritize infrastructure repair resources and better plan for the future.

TRC is actively working with clients to improve water infrastructure resiliency and increase the efficiency of leak repair. With state-of-the-art satellite data from the NISAR program, we will further help our clients future-proof their water supply systems and proactively decide where to focus their resources.

Water loss is energy loss. By helping utilities identify and repair underground drinking water leaks, we save water resources and the embedded energy within that water.

Beth Baxter, Associate Director, Energy Efficiency

By planning, designing, and implementing advanced energy programs across the U.S., TRC is helping our clients achieve a clean and equitable energy future for the communities they serve.

For more information, contact us at

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