New data driven approach prepares to transform water industry

Posted: Monday 27th July 2015

Burst water pipes will fall as hi-tech sensors, able to detect potential leaks before the pipes burst, are set to be installed across Britain’s water mains.

On average around twenty two per cent of water flowing through Britain’s water mains is lost to leaks or unauthorised use – but new technology could reduce this to as low as five per cent, saving water companies billions of litres, tonnes of carbon and millions of pounds as well as increase the water networks resilience to drought and climate change.

Water companies currently find a leak through a range of technologies including ‘listening’ to the noise of water through ‘listening sticks’ – a method that has been in use since the 1860s as well as pressure management and other technologies.

Veolia, the UK’s largest environmental services company, is working with IBM, the technology company, to develop the advanced, automated water management technology and demonstrate its economic value in Tidworth, a town of 15,000 people in Wiltshire. The partnership with IBM puts Veolia at the forefront of municipal service providers by offering the industry’s most data-driven smart approach to water infrastructure management. Veolia will both use the new set of digital services to improve performance with existing networks, and also offer new turnkey ready-to-use digital solutions to water companies.

Hundreds of sensors and Smart Water Meters are being installed across Tidworth’s 100km of water mains and 140km of sewers in the £1.5 million project which has been funded by Veolia to show case the potential for the future roll-out of the technology across the UK.

The sensors are able to monitor the flow of water in real time and predict bursts before they occur, allowing engineers to prioritise fixing pipes before they burst, preventing damage to local communities and the wasting of precious water. Veolia are currently installing the technology across Tidworth’s water mains and sewers and during this spring will be generating data into the new, IT Platform being jointly developed by IBM and Veolia.

The technology is simultaneously being implemented in Lyon, France, a city of 1.3 million inhabitants. Veolia is providing water management services to citizens using some of the most advanced and automated water management technology available today. By integrating data across municipal water management systems to spot trends, patterns, make predictions and provide a systems-level view of operations, Veolia will provide an increased efficiency of water management, strong reduction of waste, better control costs for its clients and improvement of accountability and resilience to end-users.

John Abraham, Veolia UK’s Chief Operating Officer - Water said:

“The development of digital smart services and their application to operational networks, especially water networks in the UK, is very exciting and I am proud that Veolia UK is at the heart of these developments. Their application to the water and waste water networks in Tidworth, and to water networks in Lyon, France, will enable new levels of efficiency and customer service. This is an ambitious project that could transform our approach to managing water networks, saving money and large amounts of water across the country’s water network. This would be hugely beneficial for consumers and the environment, reducing the risk of hosepipe bans and the disruption caused to homes and communities by burst water mains.”

"As the water industry transforms in response to customer expectations, environmental challenges and market restructuring, finding smarter ways to provide better services to customers whilst ensuring effective management of resources is a major priority for water companies." said Jon Bentley, Smarter Energy and Water Lead, IBM Global Business Services, UK & Ireland. "Taking a new data-driven approach to making operational and asset management decisions and integrating powerful, intuitive digital technologies into urban services will open up unprecedented opportunity for improving efficiency and at the same time securing reliable, high quality supply across the UK."

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