Amey Consulting trials patented sensor technology to tackle sewer flooding

A new technology recently patented by Amey Consulting in the UK is currently undergoing trials with the Water Research Council to tackle the problem of sewer flooding.


Sewer flooding in the UK is a major issue – in 2018, over 3,200 properties were internally flooded by sewers causing millions of pounds worth of damage.

Water industry regulator Ofwat also imposes fines on the water companies for exceeding the allowed number of sewer flooding incidents – each incident can potentially cost a utility company over £40,000.

The technology is based on capacitive sensors (the same technology which is used in smartphone screens) to detect the depth and speed of the flow in the pipe. Analysis of the data picked up by the sensors is used to assess where blockages are and to predict the likelihood of flooding so that utility companies can take preventative action. Key advantage of the technology is its extremely low power consumption,combined with the use of cloud processing, that gathers insight from data across the whole sewer network rather than from individual sensors.

Commenting, Charles Oldham, Head of Strategic Consulting, Amey, said:

“Amey Consulting is working closely with our clients and partners to solve the problem of sewer blockages that lead to flooding, a situation that is exacerbated by our increasingly wetter weather.

“This is an exciting technology that if piloted successfully with our utility clients in 2020, could have further applications across large estates such as airports, cities that are impacted by being on or close to a flood plain or for local authorities trying to manage highways flooding.”

The data captured from the sensors will be communicated to the cloud via a mobile network operator at regular intervals. This enables utility companies, using a data analytics platform, to predict and take preventative action on sewer floods.

For connectivity of the project at the current trial stage, Amey Consulting is using the next-generation NB-IoT technology, which is specifically designed for this type of application. The next stage is a pilot programme with utility companies. If these are successful, Amey Consulting will work to commercialise the technology and expand it outside the UK.

Research and development work on the technology was undertaken by Amey Consulting, led by Dr. Stephen Gooberman-Hill and co-inventors Dr. Michele Gaio and Dr. Vergil Yotov. The team drew on the expertise of the Amey Utilities business and the project was supported and funded by Amey Investments.

Northumbrian Water and partners offer £25k to develop Dragonfly sensor network

Northumbrian Water, CGI and the Water Hub are offering inventors and creators up to £25,000 to help them turn an idea which will both protect the environment and improve rural internet connectivity, into a reality.

The deadline for applications is fast approaching – interested organisations have until close of play until Friday 14th February 2020 to submit a formal application through Durham University’s Water Hub, including a CV to [email protected].

The concept of ‘Dragonfly’ aims to see information on a number of variables such as temperature, quality, flow and depth, collected in real-time from the regions’ watercourses, through the use of water sensors.

The information will help the North East water company maintain its industry-leading environmental performance by managing its water and wastewater network better, as well as helping other organisations make decisions about how the catchment is managed and water safety.

A number of the different sensors placed in rivers and streams would form a mesh concept, linking multiple units together by 5G and also creating a physical network of wireless connectivity for the benefit of rural communities.

The idea came out of Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival last year, where more than 100 people took part in the five-day challenge to enhance rural communities and the environment, facilitated by global IT and business consulting company, CGI.

Now, the two organisations, together with the Water Hub – a Durham University-led partnership between Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water, are looking for inventive minds to help them develop a working Dragonfly product.

Up to £25,000 will be awarded to the chosen applicant, who will have until July to create and build the prototype, before showcasing it at Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival from 6-12 July 2020.

The concept will also be presented at the Water Hub’s Ripple Event on Wednesday March 18, 2020 – a networking event for water technology innovation.

Northumbrian Water’s Catchment Co-ordinator, Clare Deasy, said: “Dragonfly is a very exciting project that came out of our Innovation Festival.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for someone to help us bring Dragonfly to life, exploring the possibility for creating a low-cost, low-maintenance, self-powered sensor which would have huge benefits for water companies, the partners we work with and our customers.

“We’re very excited to see what possibilities the chosen applicant brings to the table and to start helping us make a difference for the environment.”

Thames Water cuts waste costs by recycling invasive wetlands mussels

More than 35 tonnes of quagga and zebra mussel shells, which are found in huge numbers and cost millions of pounds to remove, were crushed and used to create four new tern rafts during a conservation project at the award-winning Walthamstow Wetlands in North London.

Since 2006, Thames Water has spent almost £4 million clearing mussels, which latch on to the inside of pipes and tunnels, removing the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools full of shells.

Site manager Dan Brackley enquired about reusing the mussels, which were removed from the nearby Coppermills Stream, to save on the cost of building materials and disposing of the shells.

He said:

“These invasive non-native species are already present in all of our reservoirs as well as the rivers and underground tunnels. They can cause blockages and, as well as the cost of resources required to remove them, our treatment works can be affected while cleaning work is carried out.

“By using them like this, they can instead become a new tool for us, as this material can be used for future work on site, such as laying pathways and in filling potholes.”

During its latest clean, the 700m Thames U-tunnel, which runs from the High Maynard to the East Warwick reservoir at Walthamstow, was found to contain a massive 1,374 tonnes of the mollusc.

The new tern rafts made from the mussel shells and floating islands were also installed on the Banbury, Lockwood and East Warwick reservoirs.

Rebecca Elliott, Thames Water’s senior ecologist, commented:

“Developing innovative solutions to managing invasive non-native species is important to us.

“The solution we found here benefits the wildlife at Walthamstow Wetlands while removing the need to take waste to landfill, reducing our energy and carbon footprint and creating a new and sustainable environment, as well as saving the business and our customers’ money by reusing a material already present on the site.”

Yorkshire Water awards £6m AMP7 telemetry real-time services contract

Yorkshire Water has awarded a framework contract for the provision of telemetry real-time services worth an estimated £6 million in total.

Services to be provided under the framework will fundamentally bridge the gap between IT and operational technology and will provide reliable data connections and translate data into information for the wider business. The framework does not cover the installation of new infrastructure.

Data sources include:

  • regional telemetry system
  • energy consumption
  • sludge transport
  • rainfall
  • data from 3rd party loggers

Data will be delivered for consumption in the form of raw data e.g. PI Data Link or on visualised displays/dashboards (e.g.PI-Vision). This is in line with the water company’s current strategy of providing situational awareness on a single pane of glass for the control room.

Types of projects the suppliers could potentially be expected to deliver under the contract include:

  • visualisation of current data with the use of YWS business logic to illustrate any potential alerts in a timely manner
  • data modelling will also be used to take a more predictive/proactive approach,
  • smaller projects relating to the control room should be delivered in a standard to allow the growth into a layered situational awareness dashboard (single pane of glass),
  • interfaces between systems

Yorkshire Water is currently developing bespoke and nonstandard interfaces to meet the needs of the business. The data is acquired from assets such as water treatment works, waste water treatment works, pumping stations, level monitoring loggers, flow and pressure loggers, sludge tanker operations and energy consumption/generation. All the data must be structured and interfaced to operational databases for business use,

One area the water company is looking at is the use of intelligent alarms to reduce alarm noise – flows and levels are affected by external conditions such as weather and Yorkshire Water does not want to be overloaded with alerts and alarms where a genuine alarm could be missed. Projects will be started which allow data to be fed from existing systems into external analytics where data can be mixed, and only genuine alerts/alarms fed back in.

Projects which require input are limited to:

  • internal sewer flooding (using data from addition of small form factor loggers),
  • upper quartile performance target waste monitors (using data from addition of additional waste loggers),
  • upper quartile performance target acoustic loggers (using data from addition of additional clean loggers),

Bradford-based firm Aqua Consultants and Larsen and Toubro Infotech Ltd in London have both been awarded framework contracts, two of four companies in the bidding for the work.

London Borough of Southwark tenders £3.275m drainage services contract

The London Borough of Southwark has gone out to tender with a contract for professional drainage services worth an estimated £3.275 million.

Southwark Council is looking to put a single supplier contract in place for a number of services including:

  • site investigations
  • design responsibility
  • ensuring authority and stakeholder consent
  • construction supervision and contract management in the capacity of drainage works

The services required in the London Borough of Southwark include the concept design, detailed design and works management of complex drainage schemes including sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) relating to the highways.Scope of works cover:

  • identify areas at risk of flooding
  • feasibility studies including all required surveys and data gathering
  • outline design of proposed solutions
  • detailed design of proposed solutions
  • works management and supervision
  • funding identification and application
  • principal designer responsibilities

Time limit for receipt of tenders or requests to participate is 24th February 2020 – click here to access the tender documentation.

Wessex Water helping Bath Half go plastic free

Wessex Water will supply fresh tap water to Bath Half Marathon runners – part of a mission to make the race totally free of single-use plastics by 2021.

In a landmark new partnership called Refill Not Landfill, runners will be able to fill up their reusable bottles at Wessex Water’s HydroZones, with tap water stations also available to supply water in compostable cups during the race. 
Andrew Taylor, race director of the Bath Half, said: “We’ve always been conscious of our environmental footprint, and last year we announced we were embarking on a new challenge to eliminate single-use plastics from the race by 2021.  
“That’s why this partnership with Wessex Water makes perfect sense, and we’re excited to launch the Refill Not Landfill partnership with them. 
“We want to make it as easy as possible for runners on the day, with HydroZone refill points at various locations along the race route and biodegradable cups for those who prefer not to run with a bottle.”   
Kirsty Scarlett, Wessex Water’s head of community engagement, added: “We’re on a mission to reduce single-use plastics, installing water refill points across our region to encourage people to drink more tap water and avoid plastic bottles. 
So we’re proud to be keeping runners hydrated at this year’s Bath Half, becoming the first UK water company to partner with a road race of this scale.”

Fibre-optic cables used to detect leaks

Anglian Water is trialling the use of fibre-optic cables to find hidden leaks in water mains.

Anglian’s engineers are trialling the technology across the company’s alliance with Kier and the Craley Group.

Craley Group’s iSMTM technology is being trialled on a Kier designed model section of pipework on an Anglian Water site in Lincolnshire. This model will allow engineers to test the endurance and capability of the fibre optics and allow them to hone the technical process of installing and removing the fibre optics from the pipeline.

Once the fibre optic sensor cable is fed into water pipes, the technology has the potential to continually monitor the pipeline for leaks and other events in the network by creating thousands of virtual sensors along the section of pipeline being monitored. The information from these virtual sensors is processed in real-time with immediate reporting of any new leaks or events of interest occurring. Depending on the results of this initial trial, work could progress to full scale operational trials in a live water network.

Hayley Bruce, project manager for Anglian Water, said: “This technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we find and fix leaks across our water network and we’re hoping it will be a fitting addition to our smart network strategy.

“Despite being the best in the business, we know we must go even further as it’s one of the most important things to our customers and the wider environment. Anglian Water was the first company to use thermal imaging drones and naval hydrophone technology to help us find leaks – this could be the next tool in our armoury in the war against leakage.

Over the last five years the company has invested £120 million in driving down leakage and is now working towards further reduction of over 15% by 2025.

Bruce added: “We’re exploring every avenue of engineering available to us to continually be better, and technology like this could revolutionise our ability to meet those tough targets.”

Water industry takes major step towards becoming carbon zero

Working with two international consultancies, Ricardo and Mott MacDonald, the sector will develop a comprehensive action plan detailing the measures the industry will deploy to achieve zero carbon emissions over the next decade.

The water industry is the first industrial sector in the UK, and one of the first major sectors in the world, to commit to a carbon zero future by 2030. The goal forms part of the industry’s Public Interest Commitment (PIC) released earlier this year with the carbon zero goal one of five stretching social and environmental ambitions.

As the fourth most energy intensive industry in the UK, the water sector directly contributes around five million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year. As well as the immediate impact of carbon reductions, the industry intends to share its learnings to help other major energy-using industries to deliver their own plans.

The consultancies will add their expertise and lead on the production of the plan, which will be published in March 2020 followed by a detailed report in the Summer. Ricardo and Mott Macdonald, on behalf of Water UK and UKWIR, will carry out research to help define and agree a practical approach to the pledge, while also assessing what carbon reduction measures will have most impact.

Progress on the goal will be independently assessed each year, with key milestones reported publicly. Individual companies will use the action plan to inform their own detailed approaches to meeting net zero across the industry by 2030.

Water companies have already started working towards the carbon zero goal with many programmes and initiatives in place. These include:

  • The industry plans to plant 11 million trees across the country by 2030. The joint proposals, announced earlier this year, will see trees planted on around 6,000 hectares of land across England together with work to restore original woodland and improve natural habitats that themselves provide carbon capture.
  • As bottled water is around 900 times more carbon intensive than tap water, the water industry has led on a national shift towards refilling water bottles through the Refill campaign. With partners City to Sea the industry has delivered an increase in the number of free refill stations from 1,500 in 2017 to around 26,000 today – and the number continues to grow. In addition, the sector has committed to preventing the equivalent of four billion plastic bottles ending up as waste by 2030 through the PIC
  • Building on a reduction in leakage of a third since the 1990s, water companies in England have committed to triple the rate of leakage reduction to 2030 as part of the PIC and are delivering plans to reduce by a fifth the average amount of water used per person by 2050. This will significantly reduce the carbon and energy used by the sector.

Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water and one of the sponsors of the project on behalf of the sector, said: “This is an important first step on the sector’s journey to be net carbon zero by 2030. Climate change is an existential threat to our environment, and way of life. Business as usual is simply not an option.

“This vital project will help us find the technologies and processes we will need to help us become carbon zero. We’ve made great strides in recent years reducing both operational and embedded carbon, but we don’t have all the answers. So, bringing in outside expertise to help us reach this target is essential.

“The water industry is committed to playing a leading role in decarbonising our economy and while achieving net zero carbon for the sector by 2030 is an extremely challenging task there is huge conviction, enthusiasm and passion from across the sector to ensure we achieve it.”

Ian Behling, project director from Ricardo for the net zero strategy, said: “We’re proud to be working on this project, and both Ricardo and Mott MacDonald are able to bring a wealth of experience and technical understanding that will support the UK water industry in creating a robust and effective net zero strategy.

“This important investment not only sets the direction of the UK’s water industry, but will also influence other sectors, given the important role the water companies will play in supporting the UK’s 2050 net zero ambition.”

Maria Manidaki, water sector carbon management lead from Mott MacDonald, said: “We are delighted to be helping the water industry transition to net zero by 2030. Achieving net zero will require fundamental changes to the way we think of water infrastructure systems and their interaction with customers, other infrastructure sectors, the environment and the wider society and economy.

“Leadership, collaboration and fresh thinking will be paramount to achieving a net zero transformation and both Ricardo and Mott MacDonald are ready to drive this change with Water UK.”

The water and sewerage industry in England agreed the Public Interest Commitment (PIC) in April 2019, strengthening their ongoing commitment to work in the public interest and place wider good at the heart of everything they do. The companies agreed a series of pledges which complements their individual business plans by showing leadership at a national level.

The sector will champion measures through which water companies can enshrine what it means to operate in the public interest within their business purpose, in line with best practice among leading socially-responsible businesses. This could include steps such as amending licences or Articles of Association.

In addition, as part of the PIC, water companies have also agreed to work together towards five challenging goals:

  • Triple the rate of leakage reduction across the sector by 2030
  • Make bills affordable as a minimum for all households with water and sewerage bills more than 5% of their disposable income by 2030 and develop a strategy to end water poverty
  • Achieve net zero carbon emissions for the sector by 2030
  • Prevent the equivalent of four billion plastic bottles ending up as waste by 2030
  • Be the first sector to achieve 100% commitment to the Social Mobility Pledge.

Each of the goals in the PIC is sponsored by one or more water company chief executives. The net zero carbon pledge is sponsored by Peter Simpson, Anglian Water; Heidi Mottram, Northumbrian Water; and Liz Barber, Yorkshire Water.

Water treatment works giving energy back to the grid

Castle Moffat Water Treatment Works, just south of Garvald, abstracts water from Whiteadder Reservoir. It provides on average 21 Ml/day of clean, fresh drinking water to approximately 47,000 customers across all of East Lothian.

This self-sufficiency is a result of hydro power which is supplied by a new state of the art generator and control panel which were upgraded in a £200,000 investment last May. The original hydroturbine, which is more than 50 years old, was installed on the site in 1992 and was in need of refurbishment.

Castle Moffat WTW is the only Scottish Water asset where pumped water is used to power a site. The water is pumped from Hungry Snout Pumping Station at Whiteadder Reservoir, over Friar’s Nose Hill and then drops by gravity to the site inlet. It generates 750,000 kWh/annum – enough to power 2,416 homes.

The site uses around 80% of the electricity it generates from the turbine with the remaining 20% exported to National Grid.

Claire Chapman, renewable generation manager at Scottish Water, said: “Castle Moffat is a unique site of ours. It is our only water treatment work where we have a hydroturbine on a pumped water supply. The introduction of the Feed in Tariffs in 2010 have meant that typically, only gravity-fed hydroturbines have been promoted across Scotland, as pumped sites did not attract funding. However, because we offset nearly all the electricity generated at the Treatment Works, it is still a financially viable site for Scottish Water.

“This is a good example of how Scottish Water uses innovative technology to best adapt to  Scotland’s topography, to build sites that best serve its customers. And in this case it is not only a very clever technically built site in terms of how it pumps water but how it able to harnesses hydro power and use that energy to operate the site which is great news for the environment.

“At times Castle Moffat also gives electricity to the National Grid, showing it is possible to maximize the economic advantages that can come from Scottish Water assets.”

“Castle Moffat is really important in terms of the direction we’re moving in with our carbon footprint and trying to reduce the amount of electricity we use. Using renewable technology like hydro and getting greater value from our day-to-day practices is helping us play our part in tackling the climate change emergency.”

Initial investigations for proposed Hampshire reservoir complete

Investigations into land earmarked for a new reservoir in Hampshire have been completed on schedule, according to Portsmouth Water.

Small drilling rigs and excavators have been in operation on the water company’s land between Staunton Country Park and Havant Thicket since early November, taking soil samples and installing underground water monitors.

The soil samples are now being analysed in a laboratory and the results, due back in January and February, will help inform the company’s plans to build a reservoir on the site.

Last month, Portsmouth Water unveiled proposals to build a new reservoir in collaboration with Southern Water.

Bob Taylor, CEO of Portsmouth Water, said: “We’re delighted to have completed this first step of vital investigations on time, despite some very wet weather, which has made the ground conditions on site quite challenging.

“We’d especially like to thank the local communities around the site for their co-operation while we’ve been carrying out the work and we hope it hasn’t caused too much disturbance.

“This information will help us prepare the planning application for Havant Thicket Reservoir, which we hope to submit in autumn 2020. In the meantime, we’ll continue to talk to residents, businesses, local groups and community representatives in the local area to share our ideas and gather their views.”

A total of 21 boreholes between 10 and 65 metres in depth and 12 shallow trial pits up to four metres deep were excavated. Water monitors were also installed to accurately chart the fluctuation of groundwater levels.