Drain maintenance engineers might be using less conventional methods to find leaking sewers in the future. Scientists in Montreal, Canada, have been working on a system which monitors how much caffeine is in a river or a stream.

The University of Montreal lead researcher Professor Sébastien Sauvé says ‘Cows don’t drink coffee’, so any water which contains caffeine, that is found in a brook or a stream must have a human origin. The findings show that watercourses can be tested for caffeine, and the more caffeine found, the more polluted the water is.

Mr Sauvé further commented:

“E.coli bacteria is commonly used to evaluate and regulate the levels of fecal pollution of our water from storm water discharge.

“But because storm sewers systems collect surface run-off, non-human sources can contribute significantly to the levels that are observed.”

The University team took around 120 water samples from around the city, which they analysed for traces of caffeine. And because there was a strong correlation between the level of bacteria in the water and caffeine levels in the water this method of testing could be used as an indicator of pollution due to faulty sewage systems.

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