Next year will see Ofwat, the economic regulator for the water sector in England and Wales, launch their inaugural Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC), which is focussed on building partnerships and supporting collaboration to drive innovation in the sector.
As this turbulent year draws to a close, we’ve reflected on some of the ways we’ve seen partnerships drive innovation over the last few years.
1. Supporting communities
Delivering water and treating wastewater is key to supporting communities to thrive; but Welsh Water has gone far beyond this service in Rhondda Fach, one of the most deprived communities in the UK.
Welsh Water have partnered with local community groups and residents to create and adapt plans for example, looking at routes for residents to move into construction work ahead of major works and setting up a community fund to deliver further public value - showing that innovation isn’t always about new technologies.
2. Saving water through reducing leakage
A problem even the Romans would have faced, in 2020 we have seen some fantastic new solutions to reducing leakage through partnerships in the UK. United Utilities partnered with FIDO to develop technology to power the next generation of listening on and in pipe, using artificial intelligence to analyse sounds and then learn from when leaks are found. This machine learning approach means that the tech is getting more effective at finding tricky leaks, for example in noisy environments such as under busy roads where traditional listening methods are difficult.
With the additional complexities brought with COVID-19, Yorkshire Water partnered with Invenio Systems to find a solution to monitor possible leaks without entering customer homes - using Stop.Watch loggers on external stop taps of properties to determine if the leak is in a customer home or in their supply pipe.
3. Reducing water consumption
Reducing water consumption is a major priority for the sector - particularly in places of high water stress, which much of Australia faces.
WaterGroup partnered with McDonalds to install over 1000 smart-meters on restaurants across Australia, part of 25 sustainability initiatives being trialled across the chain. Through improving the data access, McDonalds can trial new approaches and monitor which are most successful in reducing their water footprint to be rolled out across more restaurants.
4. Saving energy & reducing chemical use through new approaches to treatment
Water treatment has been traditionally energy and additive intensive. Two partnerships have explored new approaches and new technology in treatment to reduce the energy and chemicals used in treatment with clean, safe water for customers in the UK. South West Water partnered with the Dutch PWNT team to open their first major treatment works using PWNT’s suspended ion exchange and ceramic membrane microfiltration to deliver long-term water supply more efficiently and at lower cost than traditional approaches.
United Utilities partnered with Typhon to build the world’s first major UV-led water treatment project at a 28 megalitre-per-day (mld) drinking water treatment plant close to Carlisle in the Northwest of England. The partnership will not only save on energy and mercury use, it also upgrades the plant’s ability to treat for pathogens which are chlorine-resistant like cryptosporidium.
It will be exciting to see new ways the partnerships created and supported through Ofwat’s IWC; the first round will be opening on 18 January 2021 with opportunities to win £50,000 to £250,000 to support kick-start, grow or scale innovative initiatives in partnership with water companies in England and Wales. You can read more on the Ofwat website.