Floods impact Yorkshire Water infrastructure

Last week’s heavy rain and flooding in South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire has impacted some of Yorkshire Water’s infrastructure.

In its latest update, the water company said it was continuing to manage some ongoing issues in South Yorkshire and had been working directly with customers who have been impacted by flooding.

Last Friday water company representatives supported a multi-agency visit to the area led by South Yorkshire Police.

Following the floods Yorkshire Water undertook increased activity across the region to carry out repairs and make further checks on assets including checking that manhole lids haven’t been dislodged by the flood waters.

Yorkshire Water has emphasised to customers that there is no cause for concern with the quality of drinking water. However, as a goodwill gesture as part of its response to the flooding the water company has also been providing pallets of bottled water for volunteers and displaced customers.

Despite being inundated with flood water, Yorkshire Water’s Greenroyd Pumping Station in Fishlake has continued to operate throughout, as have other pumping stations in the area.

The company also said that reports suggesting that the pumps at its Sandall sewage treatment works were not operating during the heavy rainfall were incorrect and the pumps continued to pump their normal full flows throughout the rainfall.

It was a different story at Yorkshire Water’s Mexborough treatment works which was inundated with flood water during the heavy rain – the sheer amount of flood water also overwhelmed the sewer network in the area. To help alleviate the situation the firm used tankers to reduce levels in the sewers. While levels in the sewers have been reducing Yorkshire Water said it would continue to tanker out of the network until things return to normal.

The water company also had to carry out repairs to one of its nearby sewers, describing the work as challenging due to the local ground conditions. However, Yorkshire Water said it did not believe that this was the main factor in the flooding as the sheer amount of rain overwhelmed the entire network.

At Renishaw, Derbyshire the utility visited customers impacted by flooding. Yorkshire Water said its investigations had found that the flooding was caused by the nearby watercourse being overwhelmed by the amount of water entering it from surrounding land, rather than any issues with the sewer.

Yorkshire Water commented:

“North East Derbyshire District Council, Derbyshire County Council and the EA will be working together to look at any action which can be taken to address this issue in the long term.”


Ofwat calls for water sector improvements

Ofwat has called on the sector to improve its performance with its latest service delivery report finding that there is a real gap between the best and worst performers in the sector.

The report also found that the industry as a whole has not kept up the progress made in earlier years and performance has stagnated.

For example, despite increasing since 2015-16, customer satisfaction across the sector has deteriorated in 2018-19. Eight companies have made modest reductions in leakage, but these are more than offset by the increases made by the poorer performing companies.

The service delivery report compares performance on the outcomes that matter to customers such as leakage and pollution, and how much was spent to deliver them, by the 17 largest water companies in England and Wales. Anglian Water, Wessex Water and Portsmouth Water lead the sector in delivering services for customers overall and spent less than anticipated doing so. In contrast Thames Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy languish consistently at the bottom of the table, having been ranked among the poorest performers in multiple areas, including customer service and supply interruptions.

Ofwat examined performance in the most recent year, 2018-19 in addition to indicating the direction of change from 2017-18, for example whether outcomes performance (such as leakage) has improved or got worse. The companies have been grouped into three categories (better performers, average performers, and poorer performers) based on their performance against the commitments they made in 2014.

Chief executive Rachel Fletcher said: “This latest report card on the water sector shows some real variation in company performance. Customers served by Anglian, Wessex and Portsmouth tend to have a better service. But it also shows some inertia at the bottom of the pack with Thames Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy underperforming across a wide range of measures.

“It’s great that we are seeing some real improvements on things that matter – like reducing sewer flooding. But in other areas the industry’s performance is stagnating. Ofwat’s new strategy and the challenges we are setting in the price review for the five-year period to 2025, require companies to transform their performance, particularly those at the bottom of the pile. We are raising what we expect from companies and in responding to that, they will need to show innovation and real ambition.”

As part of its new strategy Ofwat aims to make more use of the insight and data it holds. By ranking companies according to their measured performance, Ofwat is looking to make it clear for companies where they need to focus their efforts in delivering improvements for customers and the environment.

Southern Water tenders £150m AMP7 business management consultancy framework contract

Southern Water has gone out to tender with a contract for a business management consultancy framework panel worth up to an estimated £150 million in total.

The water company is seeking to establish a framework panel with the expertise to support its ambitions and is looking for suppliers with expertise in a range of business areas, including:

  • business strategy
  • change management
  • corporate planning
  • financial
  • HR
  • IT
  • procurement
  • regulation
  • pensions
  • risk management
  • tax

The contract is being tendered in five separate Lots and sub-Lots.

Lot 1: Strategy and change

Lot 2: IT Consultancy

Lot 3: Procurement and supply chain

Lot 4: Finance

Lot 5: Regulation

The initial contract term is 4 years with a further 4 year extension option.


Scottish Government launches £3bn green investment programme

The Scottish Government has launched a £3 billion green investment programme

The Green Investment Portfolio will give local authorities, developers and third sector organisations the opportunity to pitch for large scale investment to support projects reducing Scotland’s emissions in areas like renewables, waste, transport and the circular economy.

Announcing the launch in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon First Minister said:

“Scotland is determined to lead the transition to a net-zero carbon economy, and we have been clear that we must leave no-one behind.

“With 85% of the finance for this transition coming from the private sector, we must do everything we can to help all parts of the economy contribute to net-zero emissions by 2045.

“The Green Investment Portfolio supports our ethical finance ambitions by matching projects which are reducing emissions with investors so we can fully maximise their potential and promote them globally.

“This could include projects that are making buildings more energy efficient, reducing industrial emissions or even restoring peatlands. Our aim is to take to market a £3 billion portfolio of investable projects over the next three years.”

The Green Investment Portfolio will work with partners, including Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish National Investment Bank, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Futures Trust, UK Department for International Trade, Scottish Renewables and the Scottish Property Federation to bring together the private and public sector-led projects.

Successful projects which are aligned to the Scottish Government’s climate change targets will receive marketing and development advice to help them raise their international profile and attract private sector investment at overseas events.

The Green Investment Portfolio is estimated to be worth £3 billion over a three-year period, with the first tranche of projects expected to be launched in spring 2020.



Water sector priorities highlighted in Environment Bill

The government will today (15 October) introduce a landmark Bill to Parliament to tackle the biggest environmental priorities, with the protection of water resources and an ambition to secure resilient water and wastewater services outlined.

The Bill also makes reference to powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand for water.

According to the government, the Bill will help the UK ensure that it maintains and improves environmental protections when leaving the EU.

Environmental principles will be enshrined in law and measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.

Legislation will also create, legally-binding environmental improvement targets. A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities, if necessary, to uphold environmental standards. The office’s powers will cover all climate change legislation and hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Bill also places the government’s ambition of its flagship 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing and goes beyond the key government commitments outlined earlier this year by confirming powers to enhance nature and habitats and combat the devastating effects of plastics on the natural environment.

The Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech and introduced today, will:

  • Ensure the environment is at the heart of all government policy making and that this government – and future governments – are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties, including meeting net-zero by 2050, and wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency established under the Bill;
  • Improve air quality – by fighting pollution so children and young people can live longer healthier lives. We will do this by setting an ambitious, legally-binding target to reduce fine particulate matter, PM2.5, and by increasing local powers to address sources of air pollution, enabling local authorities to work with families to cut harmful pollution from domestic burning by using cleaner fuels. The government will also be empowered to mandate manufacturers to recall vehicles when they do not meet the relevant environmental standards;
  • Restore and enhance nature – through ‘biodiversity net gain’ ensure that the new houses we build are delivered in a way which protects and enhances nature, helping to deliver thriving natural spaces for local communities. We will improve protection for our natural habitats in supporting a Nature Recovery Network by establishing Local Nature Recovery Strategies and giving communities a greater say in the protection of local trees;
  • Transform the way we manage our waste – through powers to ensure that producers take responsibility for the waste they create, introducing a consistent approach to recycling, tackling waste crime, introducing bottle deposit return schemes and more effective litter enforcement. Powers to introduce new charges will minimise the use and impacts of single use plastics;
  • Protect precious water resources – by increasing sustainable water management through securing long-term, resilient water and wastewater services in the face of a changing climate. Powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand for water will make planning more robust.

While the Bill applies only to England, more than half of its measures – such as those designed to drive up recycling rates – are designed to apply across the UK, with the consent of devolved administrations, helping the nation deal with the major environmental challenges we face together.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Our natural environment is a vital shared resource and the need to act to secure it for generations to come is clear.

“That’s why our landmark Environment Bill leads a green transformation that will help our country to thrive. It positions the UK as a world leader on improving air quality, environmental biodiversity, a more circular economy, and managing our precious water resources in a changing climate.

“Crucially, it also ensures that after Brexit, environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government, both now and in the future.”

Specifically on the water side, the key areas where changes will bring benefits include:

  • The Bill will deliver on the government’s pledge in its 25 Year Environment Plan to ensure everyone has access to a clean and plentiful water supply
  • An improvement to the long-term management of water, including providing for cooperation across water company boundaries
  • Measures to prevent environmentally damaging removal of water from the environment.


Industry reaction:

Water UK spokesperson said: “It’s good to see that the Environment Bill focuses on many issues the water industry has been calling for action on, like a commitment to clear, long-term targets and the need to have resilient water supplies and drainage.

“Water companies are passionate about playing a positive role in protecting our natural world, as shown in the industry’s Public Interest Commitment which by 2030 will prevent the equivalent of four billion plastic bottles ending up as waste, and see the industry have net-zero carbon emissions.

“In the face of climate change and population growth, business as usual is not an option. We all need to take action to protect the nation’s water supplies, ensuring the best possible service for customers while protecting our environment. We look forward to working with the government to achieve this.”


EA sets 2030 net zero emissions aim

Meeting this goal, which is based on the internationally-recognised Science Based Target Initiative methodology, would see the Environment Agency go beyond what was set out in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

It will seek to meet the goal by reducing the emissions of its own activities and supply chain by 45%, with the remaining emissions addressed through tree planting or other measures.

The Environment Agency will also explore whether it could become an absolute zero organisation – eliminating all carbon emissions from its own activities and its supply chain – by 2050.

This will put the organisation at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency through eliminating its own emissions while continuing to protect communities and create more climate resilient places.

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “Tackling the climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing humankind, and every day our organisation has to deal with its effects. Alongside working with communities to plan and adapt for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, we must also take action as an organisation to reduce our own contribution to this existential threat.

“We are under no illusion about the scale of the challenge that we have set ourselves, but action is needed if we are to preserve our planet for future generations.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “In the face of a climate and nature crisis, it is encouraging to see a public sector organisation leading by example. The science is clear – we are at a critical crossroads and the time for bold and immediate action to fight climate change is now.

“Next year, the UK will host a global climate summit giving us a major opportunity to show international leadership in tackling this planetary emergency. But we must demonstrate we’re walking the talk at home by taking rapid and ambitious action to reduce our emissions in a way that also helps people and communities.”

The Environment Agency already has a successful track record in reducing its own carbon footprint. By last year it had achieved a 48% reduction in operational carbon emissions compared with 2006/7 – going further and faster than its March 2020 target of a 45% reduction.

These carbon reductions have been delivered at the same time as the agency has worked to protect 300,000 homes from the effects of flooding and continued to protect communities, and made huge progress to improve water quality – bringing rivers which were biologically dead back to life and giving coasts the cleanest bathing waters since records began.

The Environment Agency will also be working to ensure that adapting to the future challenges of climate change is a part of every major decision the organisation makes. The flood and coastal strategy will help the country plan and adapt to threats of climate change up to 2100 and create climate resilient places, but now every major decision will be made on the basis of how these core responsibilities can be delivered and how it can help tackle the climate emergency.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s independent advisor on climate change, said: “Achieving net zero in the UK by 2050 will require ambition from government, industry and individuals alike. Bold steps are needed and the Environment Agency is demonstrating real leadership by making this important commitment.”

In order to approach the challenge of net zero, each and every part of the Environment Agency will produce a carbon reduction plan. The organisation will also be working with suppliers and other stakeholders to explore how they can reduce their carbon footprint.

Through this collaborative approach to carbon reduction, the Environment Agency will not only aim to become a net zero organisation by 2030, but suppliers, stakeholders, and businesses and organisations in other sectors will also be encouraged to take similar journeys to tackle the climate emergency.


App cuts carbon emissions on Severn Trent contract

A smartphone and tablet app which allows supervisors to remotely collect real-time data has helped Amey cut CO2 emissions by 75 tonnes, according to the infrastructure firm.

The Fieldviewer app was introduced as part of the firm’s contract with Severn Trent and allows workers to view photographs of multiple sites simultaneously, reducing travel that improves employee safety and wellbeing as well as reducing CO2 emissions and our environmental impact.

The app however, was initially introduced to help remove time-consuming paper-based administrative procedures across the account, allowing individuals more time to carry out “actual supervision” as well as helping to improve the customer journey by ensuring a “right first time” approach for site set-up and repairs.

“It’s really important to us that we deliver a high-quality level of service to Severn Trent’s customers,” said Amey’s business director for water south, Andrew Ross.

Fieldviewer has allowed us to concentrate on our frontline operations, rather than spending time on non-value-add tasks. It was only when we started using the app that we realised the added sustainability and wellbeing benefits.

“We’re hoping to roll out FieldViewer more widely across the business to ensure that we can continue to deliver reliable and sustainable utility maintenance services for the benefit of the public, our clients, our employees and the environment.”

FieldViewer has been developed by software firm Techfinity. The company’s managing director Shameel Rahman said: “We built FieldViewer from scratch, specifically for the Utility sector, where it solves a number of key challenges faced by field service businesses.  We’re pleased to be working with innovative companies like Amey to make measurable improvements in delivering complex public services.

“One of FieldViewer’s main strengths is its ease of use, which has resulted in industry-leading user adoption, greater focus on completing the works rather than struggling with IT, and highly consistent data capture and on-site processes.”


Scotland’s water sector will ‘inspire a generation’

Scotland’s water sector will be admired for excellence, secure a sustainable future and inspire a generation, delegates heard at the WWT Water Scotland Conference last week.

Jon Rathjen, water industry team leader at the Scottish Government told the conference that ‘excellence, sustainability and inspiration’ will be absolutely key in Scotland’s SR21 plans, and that they ‘will deliver’.

Delegates heard that although Scotland has done a great job on sustainability so far, there is a planned programme of activity and investment that will ensure the country reaches its long-term ambitions. The government is committed to ensuring that Scotland is at net-zero emissions by 2040, and ensuring a 75% reduction by 2030. Rathjen said: “We have to accelerate to achieve our longer-term targets, and business as usual will simply not do.”

Other commitments include establishing a Hydro Nation chair to drive forward water related research in a climate changing world, and Scottish Water hosting or generating 300% of its energy requirements by 2030.

Simon Parsons, director of strategic customer service planning at Scottish Water, said: “Scottish Water will have to transform due to climatic threats to services to support a flourishing Scotland. We will change how we work to live within the means of our planet’s resources.”

Later, the conference heard from Mark Dickson, director of capital investment at Scottish Water who said that a £3.9 billion investment had been made in their SR15 capital programme, including 2,500 projects delivered with communities and customers. Nevertheless, they will need to invest more in the future to increase productivity, embrace digital, reduce waste, enhance water quality and ultimately drive innovation.

The conference also heard that Scottish Water will be looking to transform its approach to asset management by continuing to improve the information collected and decision-making capabilities, as well as replace ageing assets.

David Satti, assistant director at the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, said: “If we don’t begin to make a transition on asset replacement now, we risk pushing these costs onto future generations.

“Scottish Water estimates that it invests around £245m replacing its assets every year, the demands on investment are increasing, as are the solutions. Developing a framework for planning and prioritising investment will be crucial.”

With big sustainability and asset management targets, the industry can expect more investment and innovation in SR21 and big opportunities for the water sector in Scotland.

The WWT Water Scotland Conference was held in Glasgow on 2 October and was sponsored by Atkins, Caledonia Water Alliance and Morrison Construction.


National marine energy test facility in Wales opens for business

Marine Energy Wales has announced that phase 1 of its Marine Energy Test Area (META) project is officially open for business.

The announcement was made during a launch event held at Pembroke Port and marks a significant step in the development of the project.

With eight pre-consented sites located in and around the Milford Haven Waterway, META aims to help developers deploy, de-risk and develop their marine energy technologies to harness the enormous energy of the ocean further afield. The £1.9 million project is being supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government, alongside the Coastal Communities Fund.


Phase 1 consists of five sites which are directly adjacent to Pembroke Port infrastructure and offers unparalleled easy access for testing marine energy equipment in low risk areas. This early stage testing will provide a vital springboard for advancing devices to commercial operation.

Joseph Kidd, Operations and Development Manager for META, said

“This announcement comes as a culmination of two years of hard work and we are delighted to officially say that we are open for business. The purpose of META is to reduce the time, cost and risks faced by marine energy developers to accelerate development in the sector, and this growth has never been more critical.

“We are facing a climate emergency and marine energy will play a significant role in reaching our 2050 net-zero emission targets. Public support for the sector is also at an all-time high and so we cannot wait to start welcoming our first customers and getting kit into the water.”

META will complement the existing test centre network present across the UK and will provide a stepping stone for developers, supporting them on their journey to the two Welsh Demonstration Zones.

As well as offering sites for the testing of marine energy equipment, META will also support research, innovation and monitoring methodology projects, working closely with Welsh universities and the ORE Catapult led Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE).

Both META and MEECE are part of Pembroke Dock Marine; a collaborative project which will develop a world class centre for the development of marine energy in Pembrokeshire. The project is due to be part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal and also includes the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone and infrastructure upgrades at Pembroke Port.

The Swansea Bay City Deal is a £1.3 billion investment in a number of transformational projects across South West Wales, funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector. The City Deal is being led by Carmarthenshire Council, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Swansea Council, in partnership with Swansea University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Swansea Bay University Health

Counsel General and Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles, said:

“Generating sustainable marine energy is an essential step towards creating a low carbon economy. The Welsh coast offers unique natural wave, tide and floating wind energy sources, which will be maximised by the Marine Energy Test Area. META will be a focussed, dedicated facility for effective research in this under-developed but vital industry, developing creative solutions to tackle global energy efficiency challenges.

“This project puts Wales at the forefront of global research into renewable energy, and tackling the challenges of climate change. EU funding is continuing to drive progress in R&D, science, infrastructure and skills in Wales, ultimately contributing to a more equal, more prosperous, and greener Wales.



Thousands of avoidable blockages costing Anglian Water around £20m pa

Anglian Water engineers have cleared 40,575 blockages from the regions sewer network in the last 12 months, 85% of which are the result of unflushables including wet wipes and sanitary products, plus fats, oils and grease (FOG).

To mark the beginning of ‘Unblocktober’, a month-long campaign dedicated to raising awareness of the problems caused by unflushables, the water company has revealed their Top Ten troublesome sewer blockages to highlight the wider issue which goes far beyond the region’s sewer network.

Figures from the last year have shown the amount of sewer blockages Anglian Water staff are finding and clearing totalled over 40,000, and cost almost £20 million. Crucially, some of the blockages are so severe they often cause sewer spills which can pollute homes, gardens and the local environment.

Anglian Water’s Top 10 sewer blockages

1.   Ipswich Yorkshire puddings (Suffolk)

2.   Louth garden sewer flooding (Lincolnshire)

3.   Peterborough sewer blockage from frozen chips (Cambridgeshire)

4.   Lowestoft wet wipes monster (Suffolk)

5.   Cambridge Sewer Sausage (Cambridgeshire)

6.   Market Harborough fatberg (Leicestershire)

7.   Offord D’arcy blockage (Huntingdonshire)

8.   Houghton Regis blockage (Bedfordshire)

9.   Hockliffe blockage (Bedfordshire)

10. Northampton Sewer wet well blockage (Northamptonshire)

A study in 2017 found that non-flushable wet wipes could make up around 93% of the material causing some sewer blockages. The wipes – which included a high proportion of baby wipes and plastics – are not designed to be flushed.

Launched by Lanes Group Plc, Unblocktober It is the world’s first month-long national campaign and awareness month aimed at improving the health of drains, sewers, watercourses and seas – driven completely by the British public.

Programme manager of Anglian Water’s own Keep It Clear campaign Rachel Dyson commented:

“Our teams work hard all year round to finding and fixing blockages on our sewer network. We have enough sewer pipe in our region to go around the world twice, meaning our engineers remove an avoidable blockage nearly every five minutes in a bid to keep our sewers flowing.

“Wet wipes cause real problems in the sewer network which can have a devastating impact on our customers’ homes and the wider environment. They are by far the worst culprit, but cotton buds, tampons and fats also cause problems too.

“Almost all of these blockages are entirely preventable, but instead lead to devastating sewage spills, can harm the environment and cost millions of pounds each year to clear. Ultimately this cost is added onto customers’ water bills and would be better spent elsewhere.”

She added that sewer blockages have been increasing in frequency in recent years with an estimated 800 tonnes of unflushable items are being wrongly disposed of every week in the East of England alone.