Water companies face an increasing battle to preserve their supplies and provide improving services to their customers, mainly due to age old networks and infrastructure.

It is estimated UK water companies are currently leaking an average of 3.36 billion litres a day – a situation which can’t be allowed to go on, but a problem which doesn’t come with a quick fix.

Due to the high levels of development around UK water networks, simply replacing the old with new is often not an option. It means providers must look at the best ways to transform and upgrade networks and infrastructure, turning them into future-proofed assets delivering much improved performance.

Understanding networks is key to identifying issues

A big problem for many water services is actually gaining a clear understanding of their own networks and the issues faced, particularly with buried assets. Many problems, such as continued leakages and areas of low [JL1] water flow, can remain undetected. The levels of sediment and organic matter levels can lead to difficulties in managing water quality.

As systems are centuries old, operators have only previously had hand drawn plans to work from, and have had to physically walk the system - an approach which obviously comes with its dangers, is time consuming, and results in huge costs in staffing and downtime – to spot issues.

As ever in the modern world though, technology can provide solutions today for problems and difficulties created in the past, we truly believe smart technology is the key to shaping a better future.

Smart technology can provide modern, cost effective solutions

Two examples of technology providing modern solutions have come in work with Severn Trent Water at Elan Valley and Welsh Water, gathering vital live data from across their networks.

At Elan Valley, we used Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) technology to secure highly accurate 3D imagery of key sections of the 73 mile long aqueduct. Completed in a matter of hours, this removed the costs and, in some locations, the physical risk associated with the traditional method of shutting down the system and physically walking through it, which would have taken days, collecting much more accurate data. It helped devise a comprehensive maintenance and improvement project to future-proof the valley and improve its performance for decades to come.

Equally with Welsh Water, technology is forging the way forward through a mobile app which enables people to immediately report any issues such as leakages or pollution, gathering large amounts of data and gaining a clear picture of what is happening in its systems.

Technology can help us gain a better understanding of age old systems, identify where water loss is happening, make cost savings and improve efficiencies, something we know all water services have to be fully committed to.

About Jenny Laight - the author

Jennifer Laight, Senior Engineer based at the Arup Midlands office.

Jennifer is a Chartered Civil Engineer who specialises in the delivery of water elements of large multi-disciplinary projects both in the UK and internationally.  She has taken a leading role in the delivery flood risk assessments for HS2. 



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