Keep focussed, says British Water chair to sector

British Water chairman Chris Loughlin has told members that they need to stay focussed on the delivery of outstanding service to customers. Speaking at the trade association’s annual lunch, which took place in London on 18 June, he said that despite substantial volatility and uncertainty in the sector around Brexit and potential renationalisation, members should try not to worry about things that may or may not happen.

“We need to focus on providing outstanding service to the customers we serve and the communities we support. We need to realise that we’ve got a real responsibility to do that, particularly with growing challenges around population growth, rising customer expectations and climate change.”

Members also heard a powerful keynote speech from Robert Bowcock, founder of Integrated Resource Management and a board member of the Erin Brockovich Foundation. He shared the Foundation’s experiences in the wake of the lead-leaching crisis in the city of Flint, Michigan, explaining that consumers everywhere are becoming much more vocal in communicating their concerns about their drinking water.

He identified the primary driver for legitimacy of continued operation as “emotion”, citing the example of the “soccer mom” who “holds up a jar of water that’s brown”.

“The canned response from every water quality professional is that the water meets regulatory requirements,” he said, “and by our standards it likely does – so that emotional part kicks in.”

Addressing equipment manufacturers and utilities in the room, Bowcock said, “What we’re finding is that these soccer moms, these citizen scientists, are getting your technology and reporting on it. They’re not reporting back to you, they’re reporting it to your members of parliament – the same ladies and gentlemen that are going to be deciding your fate.

“So the citizen scientists and the soccer moms are going to be the most important factor in the continued legitimacy of water services,” he concluded.

A winning team of Water & Wastewater Engineering MSc students from Cranfield University were awarded with the David Neil-Gallacher Award. The winning team members were Rowan Pearce, Amanda Ramgobind, Samuel Yeboah Nyarko, Giacomo Tripodi, Kelvin Kipngetich Mutai and Jingwen Deng.

Their group project was based on meeting the needs and sustainability ethos of an eco-hotel in Exeter, Devon. The students designed a membrane-based combined UV and advanced oxidation process (AOP) to treat raw water to potable quality, while a vertical-flow constructed wetland was used to treat greywater for toilet flushing and irrigation. A modified septic tank, combined with rotating batch contactor and constructed wetland system, was designed to treat blackwater to regulatory standards and a renewable energy system was also envisioned.