LinkedIn Blog Post: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Sustainable Water Cycle
During World Water Week, participants from every corner of the world met to discuss solutions to the planet’s greatest water challenges, including poverty, the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. The current water scarcity challenges here in the UK bring this even more sharply into focus. As we work toward a common goal of a water wise world, technology plays a critical role in progress behind the scenes in caring for water. At HWM, we are often asked about the practical steps being taken to address water sustainability. Here are some common questions that we’ve responded to:
Q: In response to increasing demand and climate pressures, the reduction of network leakage has been identified as a critical factor in achieving water sustainability. Why is leakage so high?
A: In the UK, water companies own over 346,455km of mains water pipes, which is enough to cover the equator 8.5 times over! Throughout this vast network, Water UK reports that 2,954 million litres of water is lost each day because of leakage.
Approximately 90% of all leaks never show at ground level so leak detection still very much relies on manual listening tools and reactive measures.
To meet these critical targets, large-scale network monitoring projects are needed to provide insight and trigger action, which isn’t always as easy as it might seem due to the UK having relatively low water meter penetration and the location of underground pipes and assets.
Q: What steps are being taken to reduce leakage?
A: New solutions are enabling water companies to create more intelligent networks, an innovative digital response to enable a sustainable water cycle. Our leak detection system combines an acoustic leak sensor with cellular connectivity which can be placed strategically across the water network. Attached to the water pipe’s valve with a strong magnet, the sensors listen (predominantly at night) for any anomalies. Their findings are sent back to base and overlaid with digital maps to identify the exact location of any leak, enabling water companies to quickly find and fix the leak.
Q: How is technology protecting our natural environment from pollution events?
A: Since Victorian times, the sewer systems include overflows that act as a failsafe to avoid flooding. Initially intended for very limited use, today’s surges in demand due to population growth and climate change mean these overflows are now being used so much more regularly. As such, the 18th century infrastructure is no longer fit-for-purpose.
Working with UK water companies, HWM is deploying thousands of intelligent sensors to monitor and analyse sewer levels. Accurate sewer data can alert water companies to blockages in the network, meaning engineers can be dispatched to tackle network and treatment plant issues before overspills and subsequent pollution events occur.
As water companies sprint to monitor their network more closely, they also use their HWM devices to build a ‘smart model’, running simulations of extreme weather events and the impact on their system. This allows the water companies to predict potential overspill events as well as helping them to prioritise decisions about network investment.
HWM is part of Halma, a group of around 45 life-saving technology companies, committed to growing a safer, cleaner and healthier future for everyone, every day. Our innovative technologies are behind the scenes, supporting water companies globally to look after water today and for future generations, accelerating the transition to a smarter water network.