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Leakage Operative

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Leakage Operative

The Work

As a leakage operative, it would be your job to find leaks in the water distribution network, so that as little water as possible is wasted through damaged pipes. You would carry out planned surveys and also respond to emergencies, making sure that water supply is disrupted as little as possible.

Because there is often no visible sign of a leak, one of your main tasks would be to use specialist equipment to examine water flowing in and out of an area, to find where any leaks are. Your work would include:

  • inspecting customers' water supply
  • monitoring water system leakage
  • attaching leakage detection equipment to pipes
  • measuring water pressure and flow
  • recording data from the equipment and using it to narrow down your search area
  • listening for sounds that might indicate a leak (using acoustics and leak noise correlator machines)
  • notifying a repair team to come out and fix the leak.

In some jobs you may be known as a leakage controller, technician or engineer.

Hours and Environment

You would usually work a shift pattern including nights (as it is easier to detect leaks when there is less background noise and water use). You may also be on a standby rota for emergencies that happen outside normal working hours. Overtime may be available.

You would work outside in all weather conditions, sometimes underground inside water pipes. Conditions may be wet and dirty, and the work can involve bending and kneeling.

Skills and Interests

  • good problem-solving skills
  • good levels of concentration
  • willingness to work outside in all weather conditions
  • the ability to follow detailed instructions
  • awareness of health and safety
  • the ability to work as part of a small team and also on your own initiative
  • good communication skills
  • willingness to work unsocial hours.


You would often get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. For most Apprenticeships in the water industry, you are likely to need at least four GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English, and another relevant subject such as science, engineering or design and technology.

The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit

If you are not joining the industry through an Apprenticeship, you do not always need formal qualifications, but you will find it useful to have previous experience in construction, plumbing, building services engineering or plant maintenance.

An employer may want you to have a full driving licence.


During your initial training you would learn about the water distribution system and how it can be affected by the age of the pipes, how they were laid and the material they are made from.

You would learn on the job and also the chance to gain one or more of the following qualifications to prove your competence:

  • NVQ Level 2 Leakage Detection
  • NVQ Level 2 Distribution Control
  • NVQ Level 3 Leakage Control
  • NVQ Level 3 Maintaining Water Supply Network.

The qualifications include work-based assessments as well as study at a local college to gain a technical certificate. See the Energy & Utility Skills website for more details of qualifications and training providers.

Some employers may support you with further training to progress to professional engineering technician status and supervisory jobs. You could eventually become an Incorporated Engineer or Chartered Engineer with further study and professional development.

For more information on reaching professional engineer status, see the Engineering and Technology Board website.


You could work for regional water companies, or engineering firms that subcontract to water companies. You can find company contact details on the Membersí area of the Water UK website.

With experience, you could progress to become a team leader or leakage manager. Alternatively, with further training and study you could become an engineering technician or an incorporated water engineer.

Jobs may be advertised by the local press, Jobcentre Plus, specialist recruitment agencies and employers themselves.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in new window):

Water UK (list of member companies)
SBWWI (list of member companies)
Utility Job Search

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Apprentices typically earn around £12,000 a year.
  • This will rise to between £17,000 and £20,000 after training.
  • Supervisors and leakage managers can earn £25,000 or more.

Overtime may be available to increase salaries.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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