The UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR), a collaborative research platform for the UK and Ireland water sector, held their annual conference on 4 Oct 2022 in London, in collaboration with Spring, the water sector’s innovation centre for excellence. Spring aims to advance the water sector in the UK and Ireland by accelerating technological developments and connecting with potential stakeholders, both from within and outside the water industry.
In the runup to the event, three speakers — Bob Taylor, CEO of Portsmouth Water, Tanya Sephton, customer services director at South East (SE) Water and Jeremy Heath, head of innovation at SES Water — shared their thoughts on current developments and future hopes for the water sector.
Taylor stressed the need for a “fundamental shift” in mindset for water companies, stakeholders, politicians and customers alike to ensure the long-term sustainability of water resources. He encouraged water companies to educate their customers on ways they could reduce water usage, in addition to implementing initiatives like smart metering to prevent wastage. Taylor also hoped to “see more large transfer schemes and reservoirs in the pipeline” for water companies, as well as more investment in wastewater technologies to “tackle issues on combined sewer overflows and trying to protect our beaches and rivers from stormwater discharges”.
Sephton emphasised the importance of innovation to improve customer service at water companies: “Just because we’re a utility doesn’t mean customers should expect any less quality customer service.” She also discussed how SE Water is in the final stages of procuring “new communications software” to streamline communication with customers and provide “proactive, targeted help”, as she believes that one way to transform the sector is by understanding how customers want to be communicated with. Sephton concluded with a hope that the sector would transform through “active collaboration and communication”.
Heath said he was excited about SES Water’s new intelligent network iDMA, which was able to spot leaks “within an hour” of data coming in. He credited the senior management for their “forward-thinking mindset” in getting the iDMA trial implemented as soon as possible. Heath also emphasised the importance of connecting with users and educating them on their shared role in conserving resources.
During the conference, Taylor delivered a keynote talk on the role of collaboration and joining a Q&A on collaborative research drivers. Sephton joined a panel discussion on innovative approaches to affordability for the conference. Heath spoke about the roadmap to zero leakage for his talk. Other speakers at the event included Ezechi Britton, co-founder and CEO of Code Untapped, Tom Arnot, co-director of the Water Innovation and Research Centre at the University of Bath, and Kara Cartwright, innovation lead for clean growth at Innovate UK.