Optimising water data ahead of price review

The UK’s Water Services Regulation Authority, Ofwat has published its 2024 final methodology on 31 Dec 2022, and expectations around leakage and water consumption are predictably high.

For Kevin Brook, director of Orbis Intelligent Systems, implementing smart technology can help to get data in order for upcoming business plans.

Kevin Brook, director of Orbis Intelligent Systems

“Innovation will be key to water companies hitting future targets and delivering against new expectations,” he said.

The regulator will reward water companies in England and Wales with ambitious plans for 2025-2030 operational period. With leakage, for example, companies will be rewarded if they can set and deliver aggressive reductions. Companies are expected to embrace opportunities to improve performance through smart technology and better use of data.

The long-term challenge of ensuring sufficient water resources is a key element of Ofwat’s methodology framework, including the reduction of leakage and water consumption.

While data-driven real-time monitoring has kick-started the water sector’s smart transformation, with leakage performance being an area of improvement as a result, companies will need to move faster to put themselves in the best possible position ahead of the next price review.

With both leakage and per capita consumption, there are resources available to enable utilities to get their data in order, close reporting gaps and help inform business plans. Smart standpipes, for example, can allow more precise monitoring of water supply networks.

By calculating in real-time the exact volume of water being extracted from the network by third parties who have hired the devices, utilities can assign consumption to an authorised user, such as a local authority or construction company.

Orbis’s SmartStandpipe has a built-in multi-sensor that measures water extractions and pipeline flow data, provides GPS location data and records the time water was taken

Traditional standpipes are not equipped with this smart capability, meaning this usage — measured by Orbis as up to 20ml per day — may go unaccounted for and incorrectly attributed to leakage.

This insight has an impact on per capita consumption targets, if any of the significant volumes abstracted by third parties were previously attributed to domestic households.

Smart standpipes also enable water companies to factor their own operational teams’ usage into calculations, through everyday activities such as mains flushing, giving a far more accurate picture of what is happening right across the network — including pinpointing illegal network abstraction, from non-authorised users.

With more stretching targets fast approaching, and the major long-term challenges of water scarcity, drought and growing populations, utilities are looking at how they can deliver improvements and build resilience cost effectively. Investing in smart systems allows proactive network management: better targeted maintenance programmes, and reducing the risk of bursts, service interruptions and discolouration. It also now enables water companies to measure usage that was once unaccounted for.

Once, those gaps in reporting may be considered too small to matter, but they now matter due to the availability of advanced technology such as smart standpipes. Companies have the tools to close the gaps quickly and build a complete picture of network activity to present to regulators.