Posted: Friday 15th December 2017

A multi million pound package to transform operational performance in the next two years has been launched by Yorkshire Water as it looks to become a top performer in the water industry.

The ambitious plan will see dramatic reductions in leakage, significantly fewer pollution incidents and will slash the time customers lose supply during planned or unplanned interruptions.

Sewage escapes causing pollution are to fall by 40 per cent, incidents resulting in internal sewer flooding are to be reduced by 70 per cent and the average interruption to water supply will fall by two thirds. These improvements are to be delivered before the start of the next five year investment period in 2020.

Although leakage reduction figures will be confirmed shortly, the firm has committed to fix leaks for free in supply pipes which lie within the boundary of a customer's property. Up till now, the first fix has been for free with any further leaks becoming customers' own responsibility. It has also signalled its intent by hiring an additional 50 leakage engineers.

In total, implementation of the plan will involve an additional 300 staff for Yorkshire Water and its contractors. As well as leakage engineers, 30 skilled craftspeople and a range of other technicians including data scientists and analysts will be recruited.

As well as more staff, the company is also planning a substantial investment in technology to improve its management of both waste and clean water networks. Around 15,000 monitoring devices will be attached to key locations in the water network enabling leaks to be identified much more quickly. These will reduce the average detection time for leaks from three days to three hours. A further 8,000 devices will be installed on the sewer network, providing information on the condition of the pipes and helping to prevent pollution incidents.

Linking these initiatives together will be a data-led internet of things approach. Data generated by the improved remote telemetry will be analysed by a new team of data scientists. Engineers in the company's Bradford based control room, using data analytics, will be able to despatch response teams much more quickly to either bursts or equipment failures which might cause pollution. Intelligence on the condition of assets will also be generated, enabling the company to adopt a predict and prevent approach to maintenance of its infrastructure.

In what is believed to be a first in the water industry, Yorkshire Water is considering adopting an open data approach, allowing the growing Yorkshire based community of independent data scientists secure access to its data streams. This will enable the company to work closely with the growing Yorkshire community of digital developers to help find new and innovative solutions to pollution and leakage problems.

Pamela Doherty, director of service delivery at Yorkshire Water said: "Although we are performing in line with our current commitments, we know that our customers expect more. We've spent a lot of time talking to them and now really understand their diverse needs and how water impacts on their lives. What they want from us is simple and clear. They want us to lose less water in leaks, minimise interruptions to their supply and reduce sewage escapes from our system. Above all, they don't like the idea that a Yorkshire company isn't currently one of the best in its sector.

"Based on this feedback, we've taken the decision to make a substantial investment in new staff, new skills and new technology. Over the next two years, this investment and our determination to deliver will put us alongside the best in the industry. Our plans combine intensive use of traditional engineering skills with some innovative applications of new data led techniques."

Commenting on the plan, Andrea Cook chair of the Yorkshire Forum for Water Customers said: "This series of initiatives from Yorkshire Water makes clear how aspirational the company is in working towards the highest standards in customer service. It is what its customers expect, and what they deserve. I am sure they will welcome total investment which is also supported by shareholders."

The investment plan is linked to a new long term and ambitious strategy for Yorkshire Water which is set to be published in January as part of our continuing dialogue with customers and stakeholders about how we fundamentally change our service for the future. At the heart of this is a renewed focus on core water and waste water services within the Kelda Group (Yorkshire Water's parent company), with the disposal of non-regulated activities. The company recently sold its contract operations in Northern Ireland and further disposals are expected shortly.

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May 2021

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