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Welsh Water Gets Green Light for Innovative New Solution

Dŵr Cymru'n Cael Sêl Bendith am Fenter i Helpu i Wneud i Ddŵr i Flasu'n well Byth

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Welsh Water has been announced as one of the winners of Ofwat and Nesta Challenges’ Innovation in Water Challenge, securing funding for innovative new solution to help ensure continued first-class supply to customers.

Welsh Water is leading the initiative , working with partners at Bristol Water, Cardiff University, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water Services.

Welsh Water has secured £167k of funding for an innovative new project to help ensure it continues to supply customers with a first-class water supply direct to their taps.

Welsh Water, the only not-for-profit water company, is leading the 12-month initiative, which upon completion could be rolled out across the whole of the other water companies across the UK.

Supplying customers with a reliable water supply is a 24/7 operation which Welsh Water manages through the operation of 838 water treatment works and 66 impounding reservoirs. At the works, water which is sourced from reservoirs or rivers is treated and cleaned so that clean and fresh tasting water is provided to customers.

There are times however where the taste and smell of the water can be affected if blue-green algae is present in our reservoirs.  The blue-green algae can produce naturally occurring harmless compounds that affect the taste and smell of the water.  While Welsh Water is able to manage this by adjusting the treatment process at the works so that it doesn’t affect the water which reaches the customer, it does require the use of additional chemicals and treatment which can be expensive.

To try and address the problem before it reaches the treatment works, Welsh Water has teamed up with Cardiff University and other water companies to develop an innovative solution which will provide a rapid early detection process for algae to ensure timely intervention can be undertaken to prevent unpleasant tastes and smells reaching our customers.

The risk posed by blue green algae to taste and odour risk is a challenge faced by the entire water industry. It requires accurate, timely data on the presence of blue-green algae found in the water, which is a time-consuming process that can only be undertaken by skilled operators in water service labs.

The new solution will provide near real-time, accurate monitoring that will allow water samples to be assessed with ease and near real-time results obtained, making the time-consuming and expensive assessment of blue-algae presence a thing of the past.

An overarching benefit of intervention management is not only reduced costs, but also reduced carbon footprint through reduced materials and energy requirement. This specifically addresses movement towards net-zero emissions by the industry.

Thanks to the funding awarded by the industry regulator Ofwat, and Nesta Challenges, through the Innovation in Water Challenge, the initiative will be able to move into its trail stage so that the methodology can be fully tested.

Paul Gaskin, Research and Innovation Manager for Water Assets at Welsh Water commented on the funding announcement:

“I am delighted that Welsh Water’s initiative to provide an innovative solution to rapidly detect the presence of blue-green algae in reservoirs has been successful in receiving funding for Ofwat’s Innovation in Water Challenge. The current methods of detection for algae are time consuming and costly, needing laboratory conditions to interpret results.”

“The project will develop methods and then crucially transfer the knowledge learnt to water companies to embed this method in house.  We are delighted to be joined on this initiative by Cardiff University, Yorkshire Water, Bristol Water and United Utilities to develop a solution that will benefit our customers and the environment.”

The 12-month initiative will launch in June 2021, and once demonstrated can be rolled out across the water industry for a wide range of applications, providing a much quicker assessment of reservoirs and therefore cheaper and efficient management solutions.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat, said:

“Innovation has the potential to drive a sea-change in the water sector and tackle some of the biggest challenges we are facing in society. Solutions such as this will make a real impact in the coming months and mark the beginning of a new wave of innovation in the sector.

“We were particularly pleased to see so many water company collaborations among the entries, and the winning proposal for the development of the sector’s Innovation Centre of Excellence will be crucial in driving future change. We are looking forward to the future rounds of the competitions and supporting even more transformative projects to fruition over the coming years.”