New asset management approach for the UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR)

The UKWIR, research platform for UK Water Companies, published a final report about the sector creating future value through asset management.

The UKWIR has developed 12 big questions to tackle the key challenges faced by the industry, now and in the future. The project collaborated with authors from engineering consultancy Atkins, technology company Ovarro, University of Manchester and asset management consultancy AssetResolutions. These were identified through consultation and discussion with representatives from water companies and regulators. 

Water sector companies and organisations will be invited to steer the next phase of UKWIR’s big question on asset management, with a workshop and review of the project’s roadmap planned for early 2023.  

Co-programme lead Carol Cairns, strategic planning manager at Northumbrian Water said that the project aimed to create a standardised, evidence-based asset planning framework for valuing and selecting investments that deliver resilient services. Three UKWIR sub-projects were merged, which looked at asset health, scenario planning and value frameworks. 

Co-programme lead Carol Cairns, strategic planning manager, Northumbrian Water

For scenario planning, the key was to recommend a consistent way of looking into the future and to consider some consistent scenarios for what the future could look like.

The purpose was to create a framework that the whole industry could adopt, which will help bring consistency to decision-making and lead to greater confidence that systems will be ready to respond.

For value frameworks, all water companies are at different stages of the journey in moving towards value-based decision-making. The same applies to asset health where benefit is identified in the adoption and alignment of common metrics.

The report defined value of investment with indicators other than financial, environmental and social values. A library of 157 value measures has been developed, encompassing natural, social and human elements, in addition to the more traditional financial indicators. For most water companies, while traditional assets remain in place, natural solutions and digital assets are now being delivered alongside.

For Cairns, asset management need to evolve as water is dealing with multiple competing challenges.

She said, “As a sector, we are going to make asset management decisions in the way we have in the past, we will not meet the high expectations of our customers and regulators; nor will we address environmental challenges or deliver our climate and net zero commitments. “These issues, along with rising costs, are all putting pressure on our service. There is a need to adopt a more strategic approach to making these investment decisions, now and in the future.”