Synopsis: A dog’s sensitive nose can detect water leaks!

Detecting failing systems and water leaks can be costly, potential health hazard, and generally goes unaddressed – until it becomes a major, expensive problem.

The colorful brochure on Aerobe’s desk caught her eye immediately when she entered her office. It illustrated a water festival called Burning Water. Described as a celebration of the power of flowing water, the event would feature singers, fire jugglers, aerialists, and dancers performing along an urban waterway illuminated by cauldrons of fire along its banks and floating braziers.

She realized Robust was standing by her desk. She scanned the brochure again for the event’s location.

“Lochlyr,” she read. “Isn’t that the city you said was doing such a good job of cleaning up their creeks and turning them into trendy tourist areas, with gondola rides and fountains and—?”

Robust responded. “That’s precisely why we’re going to Burning Water. I’ve wanted to see what they’ve done in Lochlyr. This would be an opportunity to appreciate water without a problem to solve.”

“Sounds like a busman’s holiday to me! Aren’t you forgetting something? We like to solve problems, we’re programmed to solve programs.” Aerobe gazed at the image of fire reflected in the water. “Looks pretty, though, doesn’t it?”

“I knew you’d be intrigued! That’s why I’ve already booked rooms for us at a hotel right in the area they call Edgewater.”

“Aren’t you forgetting something else?” Aerobe countered. “I can’t possibly leave Eco alone, even for a short time. We are just beginning to bond.”

At the sound of his name, Eco crawled from his mat underneath Aerobe’s desk and looked up, his dark eyes sparkling.

Like Aerobe and Robust, Eco was a B.O.T., a BioMicrobics® On-site Technician, a blue and silvery-gray figure created from the physical parts and the innate intelligence in BioMicrobics’ advanced wastewater and stormwater treatment systems. But unlike the other members of the B.O.T. team, Eco was a dog.

“Actually,” Rob responded, “I did think about Eco. We could see how he responds to an entirely new setting. We could keep an eye on him easily since we wouldn’t actually be working.”

Aerobe looked down at the little dog. He cocked his head to the left. The brushlike blue spikes on the top of his head rippled almost imperceptibly.

Aerobe said, “Well, clearly Eco is up for an adventure.”

“Are you two telepathic?” Robust asked.

“You’ll learn the nuances once you’re around him more,” Aerobe assured him.

The ghost of Lochlyr present

Near Lochlyr’s Edgewater area, frustration was evident in a meeting between city officials and representatives from high-profile engineering firms. The topic was the massive annual loss of drinking water due to undiscovered leaks between the water treatment plant and the water’s metered destinations.

Optimists gauged the loss at around a fourth of all treated water. More dire estimates were closer to 40 percent. Either conjecture totaled billions of gallons of unaccounted water losses.

“You know this is one of the mayor’s hot topics for this Discover Global Markets Summit,” one council member reminded the group. “Lost revenue aside, she’s more concerned about the actual water loss. She says water conservation should be foremost in our infrastructure renewal goals.”

He continued, “Lochlyr has attracted much favorable attention by cleaning up our urban creeks. But,” he warned, “if this ghost water issue continues to haunt us, it could erode all the progress we’ve made.”

Like many growing metropolitan areas, Lochlyr was facing the consequences of an aging infrastructure. The water treatment facility management had a systematic plan in place to replace deteriorating distribution components. Unfortunately, as they concentrated repair efforts in one area, undetected leaks would be shedding water in another.

The councilman added, “Finding the solution to phantom water continues to challenge our resources. Sometimes I think we need superpowers to gain control of this situation.”

Cory Mitchell, an up-and-coming engineer from a local firm, rose from his seat and stared at the councilman, “What did you just say?”

“Uh, well, that we needed superpowers—of course, that was just a figure of—I was just kidd—”

“Hold that thought!” Cory responded and charged out of the room.

ECO shows his pedigree

Meanwhile, Aerobe sat in the hotel lobby with Eco, waiting for Robust. They’d planned to explore along the waterways where the Burning Water festival would be staged. But usually punctual Robust was uncharacteristically late.

When they checked in the previous afternoon, they discovered that many of the aerialists and acrobats who would perform at the festival were staying at the same hotel. To generate publicity for the show, they were always in costume. Aerobe and Robust noted that many of the costumes were silver and blue.

“You know,” an amused Robust whispered to Aerobe, “This is one place where a B.O.T. could be almost incognito.”

Suddenly Eco gave a trill of recognition as a blur of blue and silver costumes moved through the lobby. Robust separated from the crowd and joined them.

He said, “Sorry I’m late. Just as I was leaving my room, I got a call from Cory Mitchell. Remember him?”

“I do—young, whip-smart We consulted with him on that big residential and recreational complex in the southeast, with the low water table issues and drainage challenges—right? Wait—isn’t he based here in Lochlyr? What was he calling about?”

“Well, it seems that Burning Water isn’t the only show in town. There’s a big commerce and export summit going on. Have you heard of Discover Global Markets?”

“Yes. Cities are hosting these networking events in hopes of increasing export opportunities and a bigger global presence. Is Cory involved in that?”

“His engineering firm is consulting with local business and government leaders. They’re tackling a major ghost water issue. He said local water treatment plants are losing a third or more of their drinking water before it can reach users.”

“An infrastructure issue?” Aerobe asked. “Theft? Or what?”

“Most likely infrastructure, but they’re looking at everything. He was hoping for a phone consultation, but when he found out we were here in town, he asked for a meeting. Their event is just a few blocks from here. Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Aerobe smiled. “Let the busman’s holiday begin!”

They were about a block from the meeting place, in front of a beautifully restored old hotel, when Eco suddenly refused to budge, despite streams of people entering and exiting the building.

Aerobe watched Eco closely as the little dog executed a series of deliberate movements with his paws, and began vocalizing a little excited yodel.

“Are the crowds upsetting him?” Robust asked worriedly. “Maybe you should take Eco back to the quiet room and I’ll go alone to meet Cory.”

“He’s just fine and I think I know why he stopped. Stay with him. I’ll be right back.”

Aerobe entered the lobby and approached the concierge “It’s urgent that I speak with your manager.”

There was something compelling about Aerobe’s tone, so without argument, the concierge made a call. Soon a woman appeared at the concierge stand and introduced herself to Aerobe.

“I’m Willa Pembly, manager of the Canbury Arms. May I help you?”

Wow, Aerobe thought, she can look a B.O.T. in the eye and not miss a beat. Impressive.

“Tell me, Ms. Pembly, have any of your guests been complaining about low water pressure lately?”

“How could you possibly know—?”

“You have a water leak. I’m Aerobe, a water treatment specialist. A colleague of mine detected the leak. If you’ll please step outside, I can show you where it is.”

The manager went outside, saw Robust and immediately asked him, “Did you find the water leak?”

Aerobe said, “Not him.” She pointed to the little dog. “Him! That’s Eco. He found your water leak.”

“A, um, dog?” She looked skeptically at Aerobe. “Are you sure about the location? A water department crew came out recently and couldn’t find it. They were scheduled to begin speculative excavations next week.”

Aerobe said, “The leak appears to be some distance from the main line to your hotel. They might not have checked that far east. But it could definitely affect your water pressure.”

“Well, this is simply incredible! Let me get my maintenance supervisor.”

Robust contacted Cory to explain their delay. When he heard where they were, he said he’d walk over; he was curious to see the situation Robust had just related.

Cory walked up as the hotel’s maintenance supervisor was marking the area that Eco had indicated and got on his cell phone to summon a utility crew.

Cory asked, “Is this a fluke or can your dog repeat this feat?”

Aerobe assured him that Eco was the real deal.

“Could we possibly put him to the test?” Cory asked.

Eco’s eyes sparkled.

“Why not,” Aerobe shrugged, “He’s apparently up for it.”

Cory texted his colleagues at the Summit and asked them to suggest an area where water leaks were suspected, but not confirmed.

Cory explained that they would go to an area serviced by some of the oldest water delivery lines in the area. He added, “We can take the new street car line. It’ll give you a chance to see some of the city, since we’re cutting into your tourist time.”

A B.O.T. on a mission

As soon as they exited the streetcar, Eco focused on the ground, sensing, sniffing, pawing. Occasionally he would stop and repeat his actions from outside the hotel, punctuated by a little yodel that sounded like “A-roo-roo.”

Cory would note the coordinates on his smart phone and text them back to the folks at the Summit. After a while Eco would look at Cory as if to say, “Got it?” before moving on.

Eco tirelessly covered ground. Aerobe and Robust would follow about two feet off the ground, hovering behind Eco and staying out of his way. Cory followed in a slow jog, after reminding Aerobe and Robust that he’d run several 26K marathons that year and this was barely a training pace.

Eco’s route eventually led them to the drinking water treatment plant, where plant officials had gathered outside to meet them. They were amazed by Eco’s findings and slightly overwhelmed by an entire B.O.T. team, but they invited them in for a plant tour.

As they neared the plant entrance, Eco’s behavior changed again. His entire body stiffened, his brush-like fur stood straight up, and his vocalizations deepened into a sound between a growl and a low siren. “AAARRRROOOOOooooooo!”

“He’s in full danger alert mode,” Aerobe said. “What is in that outbuilding?”

The plant manager said, “That’s our chemical storage area, where we keep chlorine gas used for disinfection.”

Robust gave a low whistle and asked, “Had any problems with it?”

The plant official admitted an accidental explosion a few years earlier had caused extensive damages, necessitating expensive repairs. “Luckily,” he added, “no one was in the building at that time, so there were no injuries.”

“You know, you don’t have to keep chlorine gas on hand. There’s a safer alternative.” Robust explained the advantages of using a Scienco®/FAST SciCHLOR® onsite sodium hypochlorite generator. “You can generate liquid chlorine disinfectant as needed, using just salt and water.”

“Instead of storing a volatile, expensive gas,” Aerobe added, “you could use simple, stable ingredients. It’s a lot safer and the robust equipment and ongoing usage are both economical.”

Hearing his name, Eco looked up, then emitted his low warning growl again.

Aerobe continued, “We can have a representative contact you about what size SciCHLOR® generator your plant would require. Please don’t risk another explosion. You might not be as lucky next time.”

Then Cory asked if they could still meet briefly with the group at the Discover Global Market Summit. “The mayor heard about Eco’s work today and would love to thank all of you. So would the Summit team. I know you have plans for the evening, but they’re very grateful for all your help today.”

After agreeing to meet at the Summit location in an hour, Robust and Aerobe, with Eco tucked under her arm, completed the plant tour, then rose into the sky and headed back toward the Edgewater district.

Eco turns pro

Cory met them at the Summit venue and introduced Aerobe, Robust, and Eco to Mayor Bonnie Storr and the other attendees. All eyes were on Eco. As Aerobe described how he could detect leaks in drinking water distribution systems as well as sewer leaks and failed drainage fields, Eco politely traversed the conference room table, politely shaking hands with the assorted city officials, utility managers, and engineers, his handshake something of a cross between a high five and a fist bump.

Aerobe said today was Eco’s first working assignment. “We weren’t sure he was ‘ready for prime time’ yet but he proved us wrong.”

“We’d love for Eco to return and work the distribution grid with us to uncover additional leaks before they become sinkholes—or worse!” Mayor Storr said.

As Aerobe distributed business cards, Eco nudged her arm and pointedly sighed.

“I’m sorry,” she announced to the room, “but Eco is eager to get going. We promised to take him to a dog park before the Edgewater festivities tonight.”

The group looked startled.

Aerobe affectionately stroked Eco’s spiky topknot. “Eco may be an Exceptional Conservation Operative, but he’s still a dog after all.”


Aerobe and Robust arrived at Edgewater early to get a good seat for Burning Water. Eco sat between them and watched the performers intently. The flames from the braziers along the water’s edge reflected in his metallic components.

As an opera singer rode by in a gondola, Eco sounded a note in perfect harmony. As aerialists executed their intricate movements on special scaffolding along the bank, Eco copied their actions, rolling over or whirling around when the acrobats performed spins and balancing lightly on his front paws when a performer did a handstand across the bridge. Performers and spectators nudged each other and pointed to Eco.

“I think we’d better keep Eco busy,” Robust whispered, “Otherwise he’s apt to run away and join this troupe.”

The performers ended the show with breathtaking leaps off the scaffolding, sliding past the blazing cauldrons on colorful aerial silks. The spectators applauded and cheered. Then to the delight of the crowd sitting around Aerobe and Robust, Eco stood on his hind legs and slowly bent forward in a deep bow.