Northumbrian Water Group progresses smart device to help detect water leaks

An innovative new project is being established to develop a Smart device that can help detect potential issues with a customer’s water supply and raise alerts before they are even aware there’s a problem.

Led by Northumbrian Water Group, the project team has been brought together to take forward the idea that came out of one of the 13 ‘Design Sprints’ held at the company’s Innovation Festival 2018.

The ‘SMART Objectives’ sprint – facilitated by global IT and business process services firm CGI – looked at ways to use Smart technology to help change and improve customers’ lives. The result was “Barnacle” – an “Internet of Things (IoT)” sensor capable of monitoring changes in key water parameters, which may indicate problems with the supply.

Gathering data at individual customer level, ‘Barnacle’ – which will be placed inside a toilet cistern without the need for installation or any technical or plumbing knowledge – would be able to:

  • Warn of potential leaks, either in the supply pipe or deeper within the network;
  • Detect discoloured water;
  • Identify water leakage through the toilet;
  • Identify risks of freezing pipes;

Northumbrian Water and CGI will be working with other interested parties to develop the idea into an opportunity to help water customers everywhere.

Work is underway to develop a proof of concept on the technology.

Eddie Wrigley, Innovation Facilitator at Northumbrian Water Group, said:

“At present, our ability to gather data from sensors stops well outside the individual properties, but this will allow us to gather informative and helpful information that will help us ensure that the water we deliver is always clean, clear and great tasting.

“Barnacle could prove an effective early warning system for other problems that could affect a home. There is so much great potential for doing exciting things with this technology that will really benefit our customers, subject to a successful proof of concept.”

Southern Water invests £30 million-plus to upgrade Thanet’s ageing sewers

Southern Water is investing more than £30 million to upgrade Thanet’s ageing sewer network to help protect wildlife and the environment.

Constructed by Victorian miners, the original sewer pipes were laid inside chalk tunnels known as adits.

Ground surveys and other works will continue this month, with the main construction taking place towards the end of this year. The work is the second of three phases after Southern Water successfully carried out the first phase of works in 2014/15.

The new scheme is planned to be completed in early 2020 and will be carried out by TPMD, a team of three specialists – Terra Solutions, Pfeiffer and Matt Durbin Associates.

Head of Delivery for Networks at Southern Water, John Evans, said:

“We’re doing this work to protect the environment and water resources in Ramsgate and the wider Thanet area, by renovating and replacing its ageing sewers. This is to ensure they are fit for future generations and help prevent any possible impact on the environment – which no one wants.”

“We’re investing more than £30 million, which is a lot of money, and reflective of the kind of challenges we face with this unique sewerage network. We’re not sure there are any other sewers quite like this in the country and certainly the nearest similar assets are in Paris.”

New Car Parking Strategy for Aylesbury approved

Thames Water publishes first Environmental, Social and Governance Statement

Thames Water has published its first Environmental, Social and Governance Statement today and been recognised for its commitment to sustainability in a global review.

The publication of the statement follows recognition of Thames Water’s commitment to sustainability by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark for Infrastructure (GRESB Survey).

The UK’s largest water and wastewater services company finished top in the ‘Water and Sewerage’ category and seventh for infrastructure across all 280 world businesses that took part in the evaluation.



The ESG Statement brings together key metrics to provide stakeholders and investors with an overview of performance in an accessible format. It demonstrates a further commitment to transparency and ensures business activities are conducted in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way.

It outlines how Thames Water is delivering against environmental, social and governance criteria, includes three years of data and provides source references to give balance and context for performance information.

Steve Robertson, Thames Water chief executive officer, said:

“We’re very proud to have been recognised globally for our ongoing commitment to sustainability. As the provider of life’s essential services, we take our responsibilities to our customers, our people and the environment very seriously.

“We’ve entered a new chapter at Thames Water, one where increasing openness and transparency is embedded into the way we operate, and we’re going above statutory requirements with the publication of our first Environmental, Social and Governance Statement.”

Thames Water recently published its draft £11.7 billion business plan for the period 2020-25. The company proposes to invest record amounts on improving resilience, service and efficiency, as well as providing more support for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Click here to download the ESG Statement

That’s illegal! Or is it? The truth behind common motoring myths…

Driving can be a complicated business. There are all sorts of laws and regulations to stick to, some less obvious than others. But there’s also the advice all drivers get at some point from friends and family warning them of well-worn “facts” about the dos and don’ts of the road.

Sadly, many of these facts are a long way from the truth so we’ve taken a look at some of the most common motoring myths and the truth behind them.

It’s illegal to eat while driving

We’ve all heard stories of drivers being pulled over by police and charged for eating or drinking at the wheel but, in fact, there’s no law against it. However, if police think that you are not in proper control of your vehicle because you’re eating or drinking they can charge you with careless driving.

A 2012 study by the University of Leeds also suggested that the reaction times of motorists who were eating were up to 44 per cent slower than usual.

It’s illegal to use headphones

It seems silly to have anything that restricts your hearing but there’s no specific law against wearing headphones while driving. That doesn’t mean it’s sensible and Rule 148 of the Highway Code states that drivers should avoid distractions such as loud music that could mask other sounds. If police think you were distracted or not in full control of your vehicle because you were wearing headphones they could charge you.

All speed cameras flash if you’ve been caught

Afraid not. There are many different types of speed cameras and while some do flash when they function that’s not true of all of them. You can find out more about the different types of speed cameras here.

You can’t use your phone as a sat nav

This is more of a misunderstanding of the law than a myth. You can use a phone’s mapping app for navigation but there are certain conditions. It must be securely mounted in a position that doesn’t obstruct your vision and you’re not allowed to operate the touchscreen when driving. So mount the device properly and make sure you route is plotted before setting off.

You mustn’t have an interior light on when driving

This myth is as almost as old as the motorcar and there’s no truth to it. If police think that having the light on is affecting your driving they can ask you to switch it off but there’s no law to say you can’t have it on.

It’s illegal to drive barefoot

Another well-worn story that most of us have heard at some point. There is no law stating that you can’t drive barefoot, or in flip-flops or sandals but you must be able to operate the controls safely. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency says: “We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

You can’t have open alcohol in the car

It sounds obvious that you shouldn’t have booze around while driving but, bizarrely, there’s no law that says you can’t have open alcohol in your car, or stopping a passenger from drinking while you drive. The law only relates to the amount of alcohol in the driver’s blood and you’ll only be prosecuted if you are over the limit. The only exception is that you can be prosecuted for drinking alcohol in a car while supervising a learner driver.

You won’t be fined for doing less than 10% over the speed limit

Not true. The speed limit is just that – a limit – and if you exceed it you can be charged. However, guidance issued to officers suggests they employ a discretionary buffer of 10 per cent plus 2mph. The National Police Chiefs’ Council says this is to ensure enforcement is proportionate but officers can still charge you for any speed in excess of the posted limit if they choose.


Transport for London and Hackney Council unveil Stoke Newington gyratory plans

Transport for London (TfL) and Hackney Council have today unveiled plans to make Stoke Newington gyratory safer for people on foot and on bicycles.

A protected cycle lane on the A10 northbound and traffic-free public spaces are among the proposals, which are subject to a consultation that has opened today and will run until 30 November.

Also included in the measures aimed at reducing the dominance of motor vehicles on what is currently an intimidating one-way system for cyclists and pedestrians is a new bus and cycle lane running southbound on Stoke Newington High Street.

TfL and Hackney Council say that the plans “would remove a significant barrier to cycling in the area and provide new traffic-free public spaces to meet, play, relax and shop, alongside a host of other improvements aimed at creating a more attractive and less traffic-dominated environment for people.”

Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, commented: “These bold plans would transform the environment around Stoke Newington to make it safer and healthier for everyone who lives and works in the area.


“Creating a segregated cycle track and continuous pavements and allowing two-way buses are among our proposals to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and bus users over cars. I would encourage everyone to have their say and help us improve air quality and reduce congestion.”

Hackney’s deputy mayor, Councillor Feryal Demirci, said: “We’ve been working with residents and TfL for a number of years on plans to remove the car-dominated Stoke Newington one-way system.

“This is a long awaited proposal and we are delighted our residents can finally have their say on plans to make the Stoke Newington area more pleasant for everyone. I’d urge people in Stoke Newington to take part in the consultation.”

For more articles like this, please visit Highways Industry News website.

£17.8 million flood alleviation scheme for Skipton officially opened

A £17.8 million flood defence scheme to reduce the risk of flooding to homes and businesses in Skipton has officially opened.

The multi-million pound project, led by the Environment Agency, helps to protect 378 homes and 165 businesses in the town centre from flooding from Eller Beck and Waller Hill Beck, which rise very quickly after heavy rain. The project is designed to provide the town with the new level of protection over the course of the next 100 years.

Skipton has suffered from flooding from the becks as recently as December 2015. Prior to this Skipton has experienced a significant flooding in 1908, 1979, 1982, 2000, 2004 and 2007.

Construction of the scheme started in March 2015, where two flood storage areas have been created upstream of Skipton at Eller Beck near Skipton Golf Club, and Waller Hill Beck to slow the flow of water from the surrounding hills, reducing the risk of the becks causing floods in the town centre. The new flood storage areas can hold a combined total of 111 million gallons of water.

Eller Beck near Skipton Golf Course is the larger of the two storage areas. A 13 metre high, 610 metre wide earthworks dam has been built which can hold 433,000 cubic metres of water or 95 million gallons. Normal flows pass unrestricted through a pipe known as a culvert within the dam, but during a flood, a barrier called a penstock will be lowered to block off the culvert inlet so that water can be held back to form a reservoir.

The dam at Waller Hill is 9 metres high, 105 metres wide, and has the capacity to hold 72,000 cubic metres of water, or nearly 16 million gallons. A concrete culvert with inlet and outlet has been constructed to allow the beck to flow during normal conditions, which allows high river flows to be held back.

The scheme also includes 300 metres of new flood defence walls.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said:

“This scheme forms part of more than half a billion pounds worth of government funding which we are investing across the whole of Yorkshire between 2015-2021 to reduce flood risk to nearly 60,000 properties.”

The majority of the funding for the project has come from the Environment Agency which has contributed over £11m. Further funding also came from the Defra Growth Fund (£1.7m), North Yorkshire County Council (£750k), Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee £300k and Yorkshire Water (£250k).

United Utilities installs floating solar farm at Lancaster reservoir

United Utilities is building a floating solar farm on the surface of Langthwaite Reservoir in Lancashire.

Once complete, it will generate enough electricity to meet all the power needs of neighbouring Lancaster water treatment works which produces water for 152,000 people across Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.

In a part of the UK renowned for its rainfall it might seem bizarre to turn to the power of the sun, but the company says it’s a match made in heaven, and it will help reduce water bills for customers.

Richard Waggitt, Head of Renewable Energy at United Utilities, explained:

“In this case water and electricity really do mix. Solar panels are more efficient than they used to be; there is a misconception that you need high levels of sunlight, when in fact daylight is sufficient.

“What you do need is unshaded space for the arrays, and that’s where the surface area of our reservoirs is a real advantage.”

The new floating array at Lancaster will be around 7,200 square metres in size with some 3,520 solar panels. The installation will cover an area the size of a football pitch and will provide 1MW of power – the equivalent of the needs of 200 homes.

United Utilities started the eight week installation process at the beginning of October. The project is being delivered for United Utilities by Forrest and local suppliers will play a key role in the construction, including Carnforth firm Northern Pontoons.

Barry Tayburn, head of energy, at Forrest said:

“Installing this floating PV scheme for our long-term partner United Utilities is a great showcase of innovation. We have commissioned a brand new float system for Lancaster, working with local businesses Northern Pontoons and Aqua-Dock, producing the floats off-site. Once transported to the reservoir, tables of 20 panels are floated out via a launch platform and then connected to anchors in-situ. This system really is a viable option for producers of large amounts of energy as a serious alternative to ground-mounted arrays.”

Lancaster array is United Utilities’ 2nd floating solar installation

The Lancaster array will be United Utilities’ second floating solar installation. The company installed Europe’s first commercial floating solar array at its Godley reservoir near Manchester in February 2016 – the array is three times the size of the one proposed at Lancaster and can generate 3GWh of electricity per year.

UU Pontoons under construction 1A floating solar installation consists of “rafts” of floats with the solar panels mounted on top. The rafts are bolted together and anchored, to allow for fluctuations in water level, using specially designed mooring and anchoring systems.

Richard Waggitt added that the company had learnt a lot from the installation at Godley:

“The solar panels are less visually intrusive than people expect. They don’t reflect dazzling sunlight because they absorb light as part of the conversion to electricity. We do our best to ensure that, within reason, they blend in with the environment.

It is also thought that floating solar panels can help reduce the growth of algae in the water by blocking out the light. Less algae means the treatment process can run with fewer chemicals and less energy.

The new floating array at Lancaster provides the opportunity for a research team from the University of Lancaster to study the effect this kind of installation can have on water quality.

United Utilities aims to use all the solar power it generates in-house rather than export it to the National Grid.

United Utilities plans to install another 22 solar sites over next two years

Richard Waggit continued:

“Increasing our generation of renewable energy is not only good for the environment it’s good for our business too. Energy is one of a water company’s largest controllable operational costs. By generating our own power, we can protect United Utilities from a volatile energy market, which will allow us predict our cost of treatment and stabilise bills for our customers.”

Floating solar is one part of United Utilities’ strategy to embrace renewable energy. The company already has over 40 land-based renewable systems across the North West region. The majority are solar arrays on roofs and open ground at its treatment sites across the North West, with a capacity of 45MW of power a year. It plans to install another 22 solar sites over the next two years.

Solar is the biggest renewable growth area for United Utilities, with wind turbines and combined heat and power from wastewater sludge digestion forming the main additional elements of the company’s renewable energy strategy.

Government launches plan to ban plastic straws, cotton-buds, and stirrers

The Government has set out its plan to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds to protect rivers and seas.

The plan is subject to a consultation launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

An estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used annually in England. An estimated 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans.

Even though non-plastic alternatives are readily available, the single-use plastic items are used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down. Cleaning up the effects of littering costs local Government millions of pounds every year.

In order to eliminate the items from use, the Government intends to introduce a ban on their distribution and sale. The ban would come into force at some point between October 2019 and October 2020, subject to the views collected during consultation.

Launching the consultation, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

“Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause.”

“In England we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads, and thanks to the public’s support have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p charge.”

“I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognise we need to do more. Today we step-up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

The announcement follows the success of the government’s world-leading ban on microbeads and 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, which has seen distribution by major supermarkets drop by 86%.

It is estimated there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025.

The Government is also looking at further ways to reduce avoidable waste and recycle more as part of its Resources and Waste Strategy to be published later this year.

The consultation will run  for six weeks – deadline for submissions is 3rd December 2018.

Drivers urged to be prepared for severe weather