Two innovative projects led by and partnered with Welsh Water have been named winners of Ofwat’s second Water Breakthrough Challenge. In total, the English and Welsh water regulator has awarded £2.65 million to Welsh Water for the projects.
The funding will be used to make services more efficient for customers, will have major environmental benefits – and will also help to reduce wasted water through improved management of leaks.
One of the winning projects led by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water includes targeting and then implementing better management of leakage. This has received £2.4 million of funding from Ofwat. Customers and regulators seek a continued downward trend in network leakage which is seen as wasted water; but more importantly wasted power and chemicals for treatment and distribution, adding CO2 emissions and impacting the challenge of achieving net-zero. This aligns with a key element of the organisation’s net zero strategy to save water by working with customers to reduce water usage as well as reduce its own leakage.
This project aims to redefine the detectable limits of leakage to help pinpoint and repair hidden leaks and other factors contributing to ‘background’ leakage. This benefits customers and the environment by creating more sustainable ways of reducing leakage.
Another project that has received £265k of funding from the scheme is Welsh Water’s HyValue scheme, which provides a major steppingstone towards a net zero future for Welsh Water by exploring the value of converting sewage-derived biogas into hydrogen. This will help to increase the decarbonisation potential of biogas by up to 10 times and minimise emissions.
Welsh Water’s theory is that producing hydrogen from biogas provides the highest potential environmental and decarbonisation benefits, whilst providing the best value for money for customers.
If the sustainability study proves the merits of producing hydrogen from biogas, the partners aim to produce an outline design at one of Welsh Water’s Advanced Anaerobic Digestion facilities- which generates clean, green energy from sewage sludge, with the aim to assess the technical feasibility of building a bio-hydrogen production plant.
Tony Harrington, Director of Environment at Welsh Water said:
“I am incredibly proud that we have managed to secure funding for two of the projects we’re leading on.
“The projects demonstrate our commitment to solving customer and environmental focused challenges and championing the true meaning of innovation. Both projects we’re leading on and the 4 we’re partnering with others in the industry on are real game changers that, with this vital funding, will accelerate the development of innovative solutions in the water sector.”
Welsh Water is also a named partner on 4 other innovative winning projects led by other water companies including Stream, which has received £880k funding and will see the development of a new open data-sharing platform for the water industry and beyond. This platform will eventually allow all the UK water companies to share data with one another, other utilities companies, and the wider public to increase transparency and efficiency.
The second Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of innovation competitions made possible by Ofwat’s £200m Water Innovation Fund. It is delivered by Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities. The fund helps stimulate new innovations, enabling the water sector to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society, and the environment.
John Russell, Senior Director, Strategy, Finance and Infrastructure at Ofwat said:
“It's crucial for the water sector to come up with new, innovative ideas to fix the challenges that the sector – and society – faces. The winners revealed today will help develop ideas to save more water, turn captured carbon into useful products, and – ultimately – make the sector more sustainable.
“Ofwat’s Innovation Fund, which provides the prize money for these competitions, exists to help stimulate new and bold initiatives by water companies working in partnership with universities, charities, engineering practices and technology firms. We have much to learn from other sectors and the winners of this round of the competition showcase just how much can be achieved when we collaborate.”
To find out more about the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge and Ofwat’s innovation fund, visit waterinnovation.challenges.org.