With leak reduction and innovation prominent in the UK water sector’s net zero carbon vision, strong partnerships between utilities and the supply chain can yield transformative results, writes Josh Britton, global product line manager at technology company Ovarro.
News that UK water companies have joined the international Race to Zero campaign is yet another exciting step forward for the industry, confirming to the world its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, announced by Water UK in January 2021, builds on the launch of the sector’s own Net Zero 2030 Routemap in November 2020. The routemap confirms a rapid scaling-up of carbon-reducing measures is required and calculates that water companies need to accelerate leakage reduction by up to 7% beyond existing forecasts.
It is imperative that utilities consider leakage as part of their carbon strategies. If a company reduces the amount of water it is treating and putting into supply, it will reduce the amount of energy it is consuming, leading to a drop in operational carbon emissions. In addition, leaking pipes can also mean low pressure, which means pumps must work harder, therefore consuming more power.
The sector’s ambitious carbon goals, alongside Ofwat’s tough 2020-2025 targets, means pressure on utilities to do more for less has never been greater.
With sector-wide recognition that closer collaboration with the supply chain is vital in developing new solutions, there are huge gains to be made by embracing joint-working. In leakage reduction, the vast local network knowledge embedded within water companies, combined with the research and development capabilities of the supply chain, can lead to significant technological advancements.
The latest remote leak detection product from Ovarro, Enigma3-BB, launched in April 2021, was developed as a direct result of feedback from one UK utility customer. Trials are now underway with four UK companies with more scheduled for the coming months, and more than 2,300 devices have already been sold.
The Enigma3-BB is an update of Ovarro’s existing Enigma3HyQ remote leak logger, and allows the device to be installed directly into an operational meter box chamber – a first for the industry with this type of technology.
The device uses a hydrophone to pinpoint leaks by measuring the sound generated by water escaping the network, feeding data into a cloud-based analytics system. The sensors are effective in accurately finding leaks over long distances and on pipes made from a range of materials, including plastic for which they have a 90% hit rate.
The new option to fit loggers onto a meter box chamber gives utilities an alternative means of connecting to the water mains network with more access points. Previous installation methods were limited to either via a fire hydrant or by digging a new pit, which requires full civils work – a labour intensive process that can cost thousands of pounds and involve liaison with local authorities, contractor hire and road closures.
Installing the devices onto a water meter box, normally positioned under a pathway or pavement rather than in a highway, saves money and leakage detection hours with far fewer health and safety implications – and, crucially, having the ability to install loggers in more strategic positions on the network significantly enhances network coverage potential and increases the chance of finding leaks.
The Enigma3-BB provides clients with sensor-to-sensor correlations over longer distances than was previously possible and enables cross-correlatation between several sensors sited up to 750 metres apart. Using multiple correlations to identify leak locations means less data analysis is required and detection is more efficient due to the precise location being quickly identified and located onsite.
During conversations that led to the product idea, the water company customer gave insights into the logger installation process from the perspective of field teams, including what elements worked for them and where enhancements could be made. This vital information from teams who work hands-on with Ovarro products every day was integral to the development of the Enigma3-BB.
As the water industry continues its digitalisation journey, with a shift towards smart water networks, and a scaling-up of data analysis, the industry has recognised the power of supply chain collaboration, evident throughout the Net Zero Routemap 2030. In developing a larger portfolio of data and analytics services, Ovarro can support the sector in achieving leakage and carbon-reduction goals – but only through two-way conversations can the full potential of partnerships be realised.