Institute of Water

22nd December 2022


One of the hottest and driest summers on record for the UK has been a reminder of how precious our water supply is and the importance of water companies continuing to drive down leakage across the 347,000km of aging water mains that make up our clean water network nationwide.


As news headlines shocked customers with eye-watering leakage data, Water UK highlighted the fact that leakage levels are down by a third since the 1990s. Plans are being worked on to reduce it by another 16% by 2025.


Christine McGourty, Water UK Chief Executive, said in her introduction to the recently published Leakage Routemap to 2050: “Leakage rates may be as low as they’ve ever been, but we are still losing the equivalent of 1,245 Olympic swimming pools per day. Maintaining recent progress will be possible only with determination, collaboration, and support from the supply chain, government, and regulators. That is how we will build a water network fit for the next century and beyond.”


The water industry’s focus is firmly on maintaining customer supply and reducing water lost, through leakage control. These priorities are essential to address the challenges of climate change which is making water an increasingly scarce resource needing careful management.


Morrison Water Services, a part of M Group Services’ Water Division, has identified leakage detection as a key priority, supplementing its already significant support to the UK water industry. Using innovation and technology, Morrison Water Services is helping deliver a sustainable water strategy, addressing the National Infrastructure Commission’s prediction, made in 2018, that ‘without further action, there is roughly a one on four chance over the next 30 years that…households will have their water supply cut off because of severe drought.”


When Morrison Water Services secured a new leakage detection framework contract with South West Water to help further reduce leakage, it put digital leakage detection solutions at the heart of its proposal.


Finding and fixing 2,000 leaks a month


South West Water is now finding and fixing up to 2,000 leaks a month, using established electronic equipment as well as the latest artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite technology alongside a growing number of leak detection technicians


By teaming up with digital leakage detection experts Aqualogic to use the latest iQuarius digital detection system, Morrison Water Services now has the capability to provide additional data streams into existing leakage detection methodology.


The partnership with South West Water is not just harnessing the power of new technology to tackle leakage, the contract is also bringing new economic and social benefits for the region’s community through local apprenticeship and graduate training schemes, creating new employment to the region and developing the skilled experts of the future. All apprentices carry out a local community project during their time on M Group Services’ award-winning Apprentice Development Scheme.


Morrison Water Services has already successfully appointed 15 new digital survey technicians thanks to recruitment events throughout the South West Water region. With competitive salaries, terms and conditions, Morrison Water Services is creating a platform to support staff recruitment and retention in the area.


A training strategy that is developing and upskilling Morrison Water Services’ people has been developed in partnership with Watertrain, a provider of high-quality technical training and qualification programmes to the water sector. The training strategy is an opportunity for people to achieve national accreditation and career development within the industry.


Lawrence Summers, Morrison Water Services’ south region Executive Director, said: “Our new partnership with South West Water is testament to the advances Morrison Water Services has made in the leakage arena over recent years.


“We are extremely proud to be supporting South West Water in further reducing leakage. By introducing cutting-edge innovation to leakage detection for our clients, we are confident we can significantly improve the ways leakage and network performance are managed, minimising disruption on the network and keeping water flowing to customers’ homes and businesses.”


Jason Harvey, Head of Leakage for South West Water, said “Finding and fixing leaks continues to be a priority for South West Water. We are using the latest technology, our expert colleagues and partners to fix up to 2,000 leaks each month.


“This partnership will help deliver further water loss reduction through an efficient blend of traditional and state-of-the-art leak detection methods alongside the exciting prospect of working with an established and growing team of recruits, trainees and apprentices.”


Revolutionising leakage reduction


South West Water is also benefiting from an innovation that is revolutionising leakage reduction, VariSim Delta. Morrison Water Services, as the exclusive UK supplier of VariSim Delta in the UK, is using this ground-breaking technology to minimise disruption to customers’ homes and businesses, keep water flowing and reduce the amount of water lost from the network through leakage.


Already successfully implemented in Qatar and Dubai, two of the most water-stressed countries in the world, VariSim Delta uses millions of calculations per second to create an identical digital replica of a water network, known as a digital twin or pipeline simulator.


This real-time virtual recreation of the network can also help water companies understand why bursts happen, assess the condition of network assets and pipes and the profile of customer demand to help make informed decisions about asset optimisation.


Driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), VariSim Delta software can also be taught to spot new leaks and bursts, identify changes in customers’ water consumption and create alerts for malfunctioning assets.


Predicting leakages and bursts means fewer emergency excavations and more proactive action to tackle leakage in ways which are good for reducing costs and carbon emissions, delivering better outcomes for customers.


Northumbrian Water achieved a 25% reduction in leakage in two pilot areas, Newcastle and Dagenham, using the software system that uses flow meters, pressure sensors, high-frequency sampling and acoustic loggers to help identify leakages and bursts before they happen.


Yorkshire Water is also partnering with Morrison Water Services and the creators of VariSim Delta, Hydraulic Analysis Ltd, as part of its £28million investment programme to halve leakage by 2050. The trial hopes to save 1.7million litres of water from leaking out of the water network every day.


Lawrence added: “VariSim Delta is a proactive solution to water leakage. By identifying new ways to tackle leakage and other challenges the water industry faces, Morrison Water Services is leading the way, offering innovative solution to the challenge of trunk mains leakage, a challenge we must urgently work together to tackle.”


Using AI technology as part of the solution to tackling leakage effectively can successfully improve operational efficiency and productivity. It also has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, which is important to Morrison Water Services and its clients.

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