Augmented reality app to raise awareness on sewer blockages

A new initiative in the UK is hoping augmented reality will stop people sending “unflushables” into the wastewater networks, eventually causing expensive blockages.

With the UK industry estimated to spend millions of pounds every year clearing sewer blockages, there’s a continued problem with people and businesses putting fats, oils & grease (FOG) down sinks and flushing wipes down toilets.

Despite water utility operational teams issuing print-based guidance, 70% of sewer blockages on the networks continue to be caused by unflushables.

Severn Trent will offer an augmented reality app to a selection of its eight million customers.

The water utility recently featured in Aquatech Global’s coverage on the UK’s top four largest fatbergs, with a 120-tonne monster discovered in Wales.

How the app will work
Developed by public services provider, Amey, together with augmented reality specialist, ClicksandLinks, the app will allow sewer operatives to ‘overlay’ a typical sewer network on a customer’s property or surrounding area on smartphones.

The app then runs animations which mock-up how ‘unflushable blockages’ are formed – in real time, demonstrating how flushing wrong items can block drains and sewers.

Amey is hoping that the app will be an effective way to increase customer understanding about the impact unflushables have on the water network and help to prevent future blockages.

Currently in development, the app is set to be launch in 2020.

Importance of reducing sewer blockages in AMP7
From the next Asset Management Period 2020-2025 (AMP7), the penalties for poor blockage reduction performance will increase for water companies.

In its Business Plan 2020-2025, Severn Trent said it would be investing £2.9 billion (S$5.2 billion) into its wastewater network during this period.

Another major UK water utility, Thames Water, has set out the goal to reduce blockages by 13% during the AMP7 period.

As part of its 2020-2025 investment plan, the utility said it plans to invest £604 million (S$1.08 billion) on maintaining the health of sewers, reducing blockages from 75,000 to 65,000.