A game-changing UK partnership that is bringing significant improvements to leak detection rates globally has been recognised by the water industry.
Technology specialist Ovarro and UK utility Anglian Water Services collaborated on the development of remote leak detection device Enigma3hyQ and cloud-based analytics platform PrimeWeb.
Between April 2018 and January 2021, the system found 6,783 leaks on Anglian Water Services’ network, with a 1:1 ratio of leaks found to points of interest issued. The sensors are effective in finding leaks over long distances and inside plastic pipes and have gone onto be rolled out globally, including in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and across Europe.
The achievements of the collaboration were recognised by the Water Industry Achievement Awards on 27 May 2021, which named it Alliancing and Partnership Initiative of the Year.
Judges commented: “This project stood out from a list of high-quality entries with a clear demonstration of the benefits of approaching a major regulatory and customer issue in an innovative way. The collaborative nature of this initiative and the open sharing of knowledge has delivered significant improvements in Anglian Water’s leakage detection rates.”
Leakage remains one of the biggest concerns for the water industry and Ofwat is expecting companies to adopt new techniques to tackle it in AMP7. In collaborating on the Enigma3hyQ project, Ovarro and Anglian Water wanted to develop technology to increase efficiency when compared with traditional acoustic detection, save time, free-up staff and improve leak detection on plastic pipes.
The utility approached Ovarro in 2017 with an idea to adapt existing technology by combining two products – a correlating noise logger and a site-based hydrophone. A development team was established with experts from both organisations to create the Enigma3hyQ system’s hardware and software elements, including a workflow management app and PrimeWeb.
The team refined processes around performance reporting, target outcome delivery, training and integration with business-as-usual leakage operations. Following a trial on 40km of mains in Louth, Lincolnshire, Anglian Water Services began fully embedding the technology.
Anglian Water Service’s smart water strategy manager Andy Smith said: “We very much created the Enigma3hyQ technology together. We didn’t want to just accept what was on offer, we wanted to collaborate to drive for the best solution for the challenge we faced.”
Josh Britton, Ovarro global product line manager, said: “We are thrilled our collaboration with Anglian Water to develop the Enigma3hyQ system has been recognised by our sector peers at the Water Industry Achievement Awards. The project’s success shows how much can be achieved when suppliers work in partnership with utilities, place high value on feedback and take their ideas forward to develop new solutions.”
In 2021, the technology was updated further, resulting in the launch of the Enigma3-BB, a remote leak detection device which uses the Enigma3hyQ technology but which is installed directly into an operational meter box chamber – a first for the industry with this type of technology.
Water utilities are steadily replacing legacy IT systems with Software-as-a-Service applications as confidence in data security builds. As subject matter expert at technology provider Ovarro, Alan Cunningham discusses the latest developments
What is software-as-a-service and where does it fit with water?
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are cloud-based programs and associated operating instructions that can be accessed via any device with an internet connection, as opposed to a software product that is entirely installed on a device or network. A technology such as Google Docs, where documents are stored on a cloud server, is one example that many will be familiar with.
There may be a small local installation required, for example a mobile app, but data and access are largely managed by the supplier on their systems.
Water companies have traditionally used software products, for example billing systems, installed on their networks. This creates a number of challenges; in particular, it is difficult to install security updates or other upgrades and it is generally harder for suppliers to support the products. Maintaining legacy systems, for which the original technology and infrastructure may be increasingly obsolete is an expensive business but remains a widespread issue for utilities globally.
SaaS provides a mechanism for suppliers to continually evolve the software offering and meet the changing requirements of water companies. The approach typically includes a relatively low upfront cost with regular subscription costs to fund sustainment of the software and the convenience of ongoing support.
How can utilities’ security concerns be addressed?
It is fair to say that water companies have been reluctant to consider any software product that hosted their data outside of their own corporate network, on the basis that they wanted full control of information security. However, in the last five years there has been a big shift in the adoption and scaling-up of SaaS products.
Now that companies are starting to realise the benefits of a SaaS approach, binding contractual agreements and certified standards are providing the reassurance that their suppliers are doing as much as possible to reduce security risks to an acceptable level and manage them effectively.
The key standard for utilities to look for is ISO 27001, the internationally recognised best practice framework for information security management. While the standard is not new it is now widely implemented and recognised globally.
In what areas should utilities be embedding SaaS solutions?
Water companies should now be looking at SaaS opportunities across the board, whenever they are considering a software purchase. They should be weighing up the pros and cons in every case, looking in particular at ease of integration with other systems and data security requirements.
What operational challenges can SaaS solutions help to solve?
One area where legacy systems can be an issue for water companies is the control room, where a 24/7 response team monitors alarms on the network. We know that in many cases sewer flooding and pollution events can be traced back to an initial alarm that was not effectively dealt with.
The new AlarmVision system from Ovarro is a good example of how SaaS can help to solve this challenge. Typically, the number of alarms being raised is too high for staff to investigate fully and action accordingly. They are often swamped by nuisance alarms - for example, a remote device that has an intermittent 3G signal and alerts every time communication is lost - which may mean that a more important alarm is missed.
There are also periods of ‘alarm flood’ where, for example, a power failure at a site results in many alarms being raised due to stopped devices, with a mains failure alarm representing the root cause buried among these.
AlarmVision can connect to an existing alarm system and help water companies understand whether they are in control and how they can improve if not. It identifies regularly occurring alarms and provides analysis of how the pattern of alarms received match shift patterns, so these can be adjusted if necessary. All of this helps ensure that when a significant alarm is raised the required action is taken, reducing the risk of customers or the environment being impacted and penalties occurring.
What are the risks of maintaining legacy systems rather than moving to SaaS?
A major issue is the escalating cost and information security risks to water companies of maintaining legacy systems developed using increasingly obsolescent technology. As an example, extended support for Windows XP ended in April 2014, after which users of the operating system ceased receiving further support or security updates from Microsoft.
One Ovarro client requested continued support of a legacy system that was incompatible with later operating systems. To achieve this, we had to take substantial precautions to maintain a secure support environment that significantly impacted on the cost of the support contract.
What steps should the sector be taking now to avoid pitfalls in future?
Companies should be reviewing their existing IT systems and identifying any that are not using the latest versions of operating systems or other infrastructure such as database management systems. In each case, they should be obtaining costs and timescales from suppliers for upgrade.
Where costs are significant, they should also be looking at SaaS alternatives that may provide a more future-proof solution without necessarily prohibitive upfront costs.
Which sectors should the water industry look to for examples of best practice?
The big tech firms are, of course, leading the way. Google and similarly Microsoft Office documents are increasingly hosted on the cloud with the option to edit in a browser.
More generally, lessons can be taken from any industry that is customer-facing and trying to meet increasing customer expectations. The financial services sector is an interesting case. High street banks have had to play catch-up with mobile app functionality initially offered by emerging financial technology firms, which became challenger banks with measurable market share.
Where is water lacking in comparison?
Water is a naturally conservative industry with a large legacy asset base, focused on keeping the pipes flowing and maintaining water quality. Globally, the financial incentives to innovate are usually low, particularly where there is risk involved in doing so.
Concerns regarding security of data from a SaaS model remain to varying extents in different parts of the world and there is often a legislative need to retain data within the country, or even state, of origin. A particular issue in the UK historically has been that water companies have been incentivised towards up-front expenditure that can be capitalised, rather than the annual recurring expenditure associated with a SaaS model.
What role does innovation play?
The SaaS approach supports innovation by facilitating incremental product developments at affordable costs. This kind of innovation, and in particular extracting more information from existing datasets, represent huge opportunities for water. AlarmVision is a good example of this, helping companies see a bigger picture than they could previously.
How is Ovarro supporting the water industry in this area?
Our next-generation analytics products are being designed as SaaS products to reduce the costs of configuration, maintenance, support and upgrade. This builds on our expertise from our Primeweb cloud-based system used to manage Ovarro leak detection hardware.
Further analytics SaaS products are in the pipeline and in varying stages of trials with water company customers.
How do you see the SaaS landscape developing into the 2025-2030 asset management period (AMP8)?
I believe AMP8 is when the industry will shift from on-premises software being the norm to a substantial preference for SaaS solutions, with a proactive rather than reactive attitude to replacing legacy systems. Water companies are starting to learn the lessons from a short-term attitude to technology and the risks associated with infrastructure obsolescence.
Beyond that, I expect that the industry will start to embrace as-a-service models more generally, for example leasing hardware with payment models based upon availability of data.
This then ensures that the client does not get stranded with legacy hardware assets that are incompatible with future communications technology or software requirements.
British Water is pleased to announce the appointment of Rachel Lewis as new vice chair of its UK Forum, further building on the expert-driven support it offers the water and wastewater supplier community.
Rachel, joint owner and director, IQ Engineers, took up her post in May 2021.
She said: “I am looking forward to working with the British Water team and members and using my experience of growing a business within the industry to support others in the supply chain.
“Innovation is so important to address the challenges the sector is facing but both current practices and technical innovations are underpinned by people and skills. People have always been an important part of the sector and with an ageing workforce, we need to encourage a wider range into the industry to bring new ideas and experiences but also retain existing knowledge.
“SMEs are essential to this and the water industry needs to be supportive of them to ensure a diverse ecosystem of suppliers is retained to help meet the challenges ahead.”
British Water’s announcement follows its April 2021 appointments of Mark Coates, strategic industry engagement, Bentley Systems, as chair of the UK Forum and Tom Williams, chief executive, Enebio, as vice chair of the International Forum.
Coates said the three new appointments represent a period of change for the members’ association and the wider water industry: “It is the end of business-as-usual in our sector.
“Over the next five years, Ofwat is calling on water companies to reduce customer bills by 12%. At the same time, according to Ofwat, the sector needs to invest an additional £6 million every day over the next five years, all while striving to deliver a net zero water supply by 2030.
“This is providing the impetus to drive innovation further and faster. As new chair of the UK Forum, I look forward to working alongside Rachel, as well as with Tom, the British Water team and its members to champion the change our sector needs.”
Williams said: “I have been British Water’s USA export mentor for 10 years and, after a turbulent few years, the sector is now recognising the climate challenge we are facing and working together across the world. With our depth of expertise, amazing SMEs and new technology companies, British Water members are the future for UK international business.”
British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “I’d like to congratulate Rachel on her appointment as vice chair of British Water’s UK Forum, as well as Mark Coates and Tom Williams, who took up their posts in April.
“Their insights and expertise will add huge value to the support we offer our members, as the water sector undergoes a period of exciting transformation.”
British Water’s UK Forum supports members with an interest in the UK municipal and industrial market. The forum meets twice a year to review the water market, hear updates from leading industry figures and identify key challenges to be taken forward by British Water.
The International Forum, which is chaired by Andy Blackhall, managing director, Water Research Centre, enables members to connect with leading players in the global water industry. Services include access to business mentors, market briefings and businesses development meetings with key buyers.
The Technical Forum, which is chaired by Angus Fosten, UK business development director, Partech, coordinates all activities and technical developments affecting the water industry.
More details on the work of British Water’s forums can be seen at https://www.britishwater.co.uk/
Now in its third year, the European FOG Summit is set to take place in the UK for the first time, in Brighton, East Sussex, on 14 October 2021. The event will be hosted by technology company SwiftComply, trade association British Water and UK utility Southern Water.
Organisers will follow all government Covid-19 safety guidelines and will monitor the global situation closely, putting contingencies in place should any travel restrictions apply.
Every year, FOG-related sewer blockages and spills cost global water authorities billions to clear and can have devastating impacts on the environment. The European FOG Summit will gather renowned experts to examine the current status of the challenge and what the future might hold, with conversations focusing on proactive mitigation, technological solutions, international research and the role FOG can play in local authorities’ circular initiatives and sustainability goals.
Participants will also have an opportunity to join networking events on 13 October, the day before the summit. These will include a tour of Southern Water’s wastewater treatment works in nearby Peacehaven and a networking lunch and dinner.
Laura Su, UK director, SwiftComply, said: “We are proud to be co-hosting the 2021 European FOG Summit in the coastal city of Brighton and look forward to welcoming experts from the UK and European water companies, the supply chain and governmental, environmental and circular economy groups.
“We are passionate about industry collaboration and using thought-leadership as a catalyst for change, which is why the summit will not only facilitate these conversations but encourage positive action.
“While we are very much looking forward to hosting a face-to-face event, we will of course be monitoring global travel restrictions closely to ensure it can be held safely and be inclusive to all who wish to join us.”
Mar Batista, head of programmes, British Water, said: “It is a great opportunity for us to be part of the 2021 European FOG Summit. British Water has hosted a FOG conference since 2015 and we are happy to now be partnering with SwiftComply and Southern Water in bringing the conversation to an even wider audience. Only by combining collaboration, education and innovation will we successfully fight the fatberg globally.”
Steve Williams, network protection officer, Southern Water, said: “Southern Water looks forward to jointly hosting the European FOG Summit in Brighton in 2021. Having spoken at both the 2019 and 2020 summits, I know how valuable the event is in bringing together international experts to share best practice and the latest developments in FOG management. Viewing FOG as a resource for conversion to energy or fuel, thereby creating a circular economy, is a conversation that needs to be had globally.”
The European FOG Summit will take place on 14 October 2021 at the Hilton Brighton Metropole, near Brighton Pier. To book your place www.swiftcomply.co.uk/fogsummit
Supply interruptions and water losses from leaks on transmission pipes and trunk mains can be some of the most challenging water utilities face due the large diameter of the pipes and the materials of which they are made. However, a revolutionary satellite leak detection technology is helping address this complex problem, making finding the leaks a lot easier.
Drinking water pipelines are one of the sector’s largest and most expensive capital assets and maintaining their integrity must be a key priority. In order to achieve this, the reduction of water losses is a strategic necessity.
In October 2019 a pioneering pilot project was carried out on more than 1,000km of transmission mains in the south of Africa using Utilis’ satellite-borne L-band synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) analytics. Points of interest on the vast trunk main network were narrowed down using the technology, then specialist acoustic leak detection equipment from Swiss water loss technology company Gutermann was used to verify them and pinpoint leaks.
While traditional leak detection techniques and instruments are less suitable for surveying large stretch of large-diameter pipes in rural terrain, Utilis’ technology is agnostic to pipe size or material, identifying leaks via soil moisture created by potable water mixing with the surrounding earth. The technology’s ability to pre-localise a leak, especially in such a difficult landscape, allows the surveying team to invest the time and equipment needed to pinpoint leaks, helping raise their efficiency and meet key performance indicators (KPIs).
Through random sampling, a total of 30 locations were identified for site investigation and verification in this project. This was followed by a leak validation exercise to mark the location and confirm the presence of a leak using Gutermann’s AQUASCAN TM2
trunk main leak correlator. This correlator is specialised in analysing the leak noise on large-diameter pipes and over distances of up to and sometimes even more than 1km distance. When the pipe distance and properties (material and diameter) are known, the correlator is able to pinpoint the leak extremely accurately.
The leak detection teams were able to locate leaks at all 30 locations, exhibiting 100% accuracy for the SAR technology and evidencing a highly effective job carried out by the teams in the field.
The need to protect water supplies by finding and fixing leaks as quickly and robustly as possible has never been more urgent, and not just in Africa. According to the World Resources Institute, demand for water has increased by 600% worldwide over the past 100 years and water utilities face increasing challenges to due to aging infrastructure and vast networks spanning both urban and rural environments.
Utilis’ remote-sensing technology uses a sensor mounted on a satellite orbiting at 637km above earth, which means it can capture an entire network in one shot. It has the potential to capture thousands of leaks using a patented algorithm that identifies the unique signature of drinking water escaping into the ground.
The expansive satellite-analytics helps companies strategically identify hot spots to investigate further so that leaks can be targeted before surfacing, reducing potential damage to nearby infrastructure and the environment.
This is particularly useful in rural areas as it is traditionally much harder and more time-consuming detecting leaks in remote locations. In addition, the approach is non-invasive, can be frequently updated and is highly scalable.
“Fixing leaks is not just about stopping water-loss once we are already aware there is an issue, it is also vital to pre-empt problems and prevent further collateral damage to the infrastructure and environment,” said Uri Gutermann, chief executive of Gutermann. “There are solutions available to alleviate the pressure on water supplies and by harnessing technology and data to make intelligent, long-term decisions, utilities are better placed to tackle this growing problem.”
Cutting costs and water loss
Satellite leak detection offers utilities much lower operating costs, with no preparations or upfront investments required. Leaks can be located faster, resources can be managed more efficiently, and background losses reduced, all resulting in decreased water losses.
Since developing the technology in 2016, Utilis has worked on over 250 projects worldwide in countries including the US, UK, Italy, Chile, China and Africa, leading to more than 30,000 leaks verified and saving customers around 19,000 million litres (5,000 million gallons) a year.
Most countries are facing unprecedented pressure on water resources and with global population growth, estimates show with current practices the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by as early as 2030.
To strengthen water security against this backdrop of increasing demand and water scarcity, the sector needs to invest in institutional strengthening, information management, and infrastructure development.
In the coming years there is going to be a much higher demand for technology and data to solve these pressing issues. The world is digitising, and the water industry must continue to adapt quickly and use these advances in technology to their benefit.
The message for water companies trying to tackle leakage is while the current solutions that exist may not be enough in isolation, when used in combination, companies can tackle leakage in a more efficient, cost effective and environmentally sustainable manner.