Northumbrian Water

In the North East of England, NWL trades as ‘Northumbrian Water’ in the supply of portable and raw water and the collection, treatment and disposal of sewage and sewage sludge.

About Northumbrian Water

Northumbrian Water Limited supplies 2.7 million customers in the North East with both water and sewerage services, trading as Northumbrian Water, and 1.8 million customers in the South East with water services, trading as Essex & Suffolk Water.

In 2019, Northumbrian Water Group was named the world’s most ethical water company for the eighth time and was awarded 19th Best Place to Work in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For. Northumbrian Water was also named the number one place to work in the North East.

Northumbrian Water and Made Smarter Technology Accelerator

Angela MacOscar, Head of Innovation at Northumbrian Water, said:

“At Northumbrian Water, we are always looking for ways that we can innovate to discover the best ways of working, for both our employees and our customers. Innovation is at the heart of everything we do, and by joining the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme we’re able to see first-hand how our partners and other technology providers can develop innovative solutions to some of our wicked problems in the water sector.”

Challenges brought to you by Industry Challenge Owner – Northumbrian Water

  • Challenge 1: Sewer blockages smart Porcupine
  • Challenge 2: Monitoring water quality within the distribution network and real time analysis

Challenge 1: Sewer blockages smart Porcupine

Challenge background

Sewer blockages are a real challenge for Northumbrian Water as they cause a significant proportion of sewer flooding (>90% of flooding incidents are attributed to blockages). In turn, unflushables in the sewer network (such as wet wipes and sanitary products) are a key contributor to sewer blockages. Northumbrian Water is subject to a financial penalty and reward system for its performance for both sewer blockages and sewer flooding, as well as the reputational impact.

Northumbrian Water has previously developed a device called ‘Porcupine’ which is placed in the sewer and traps unflushables on its spines. This helps to identify the source of unflushables, and target customer engagement to reduce blockages. The current method is, however, very labour intensive and with limited data collection capabilities.

For this challenge

Northumbrian Water is looking to develop a smart version of the Porcupine which can react to issues before they form a blockage or cause flooding. The solution will need to augment or replace the existing device with sensors and data collection capability in order to analyse depth of flow and identify the presence and origination of unflushables caught.

Introducing Innvotek Ltd – prototype phase startup

As part of the prototype phase of the programme, Innvotek worked with Northumbrian Water on the sewer blockages challenge: An unmanned module to tackle sewer blockages using AI

Read more on this solution.

Challenge 2: Water network monitoring and real time analysis

Challenge background

Northumbrian Water wants to improve its visibility and understanding of water quality within a designated district meter area (DMA). For this challenge it is looking to develop a workable sensoring regime within the DMA which would help monitor and manage water quality, flow and pressure in near real-time. In turn, this will help identify and notify potential and actual leaks within the system.

Whilst water quality is measured at the treatment works where clean water is produced, visibility of the quality as it progresses through the network becomes less granular amongst the branches. Northumbrian Water is trialling water quality sensors at successive storage reservoirs and is recording pressure and flow measurements at the entry to the DMA, but within the DMA teams are reliant on manual sampling of the water. This process requires employees to physically take samples and transport them to labs for testing in a timely and compliant manner.

Northumbrian Water has two performance commitments regarding the contacts they receive from customers about water quality, which relate to the appearance and the taste or smell of the water. Based on the current targets and the associated penalty/rewards, the avoidance of one of these contacts is worth approximately £2,000. Through better visibility of water quality in the network, Northumbrian Water’s aim is to reduce these contacts with an optimised programme of maintenance and a better notification system to inform customers of any issues.

For this challenge:

The solution would need to be affordable, easy to install (with little interruption to the water supply) and compliant with drinking water inspectorate (DWI) regulation 31 when connected to a water pipe. Maintenance, calibration and replacement are key considerations as is the ability to communicate data effectively. Visualisation of the output is also important and the solution must be user-friendly for the operational technology department at Northumbrian Water.

Introducing Riscon Solutions and Inventia UK – minimum viable product phase startup

Riscon Solutions and Inventia UK, with Marketech Solutions will be working with Northumbrian Water on the monitoring water quality within the distribution network and real time analysis challenge: The ITERATION project delivers a cloud-enabled, remote water quality monitoring solution

Read more on this solution.