Five things you need to know about water network resilience

5 December 2023

Five things you need to know about water network resilience

Our recent webinar with Radius Systems explored the resilience of pipe networks as AMP8 looms. Here’s five things we learnt from our panel of industry experts.

Somehow water companies must balance tackling climate change, customers’ increasing expectations for service, improved treatment of the environment and pressure on people’s ability to pay as part of a cost-of-living crisis.

Our recent webinar saw water industry experts explore what’s needed for your AMP8 offensive and how water companies can reduce leakage and achieve greater resilience in the face of climate change.

Here’s just a few of the things we learnt from the event:

The pace of climate change has taken networks by surprise.

“We are really seeing an acceleration in terms of climate change, which is worrying,” says James Curtis, head of leakage at Affinity Water. “We want to adapt and renew the network, but that takes time, and climate change is here now.” As well as traditional freeze-thaw, water companies are seeing an increasing number of leakage events caused by hotter, drier summers.

There’s a massive amount of pipe out there to take care of.

There’s a whopping 450,000 km of water pipe in the UK, says Steve Kaye, chief executive of UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR). “We have to find a way of looking after the pipe we’ve got and understanding its condition,” he says. “That means repairing effectively, but also optimising operations in our networks.”

Innovation is helping detect leakage.

Traditional acoustic methods for detecting leakage don’t always work when it comes to newer polyethylene pipe networks, says Curtis of Affinity. “That’s why satellite leak detection is coming to the fore. With satellite, it doesn’t matter what the pipe material is or whether it’s in an urban or rural area.”

Fibre optic networks are also being used to identify leaks, as well as pressure loggers that use AI to understand any abnormalities in pressure that could indicate a problem.

Rehabilitation of existing networks has an important role.

Cleaning an existing main can have a major impact on the pressure required to move water through it, says Garvan Kelly, business development manager at Radius Systems. “Pressure management will have a significant impact on leakage,” he says. “There is also a wide range of rehabilitation techniques available for legacy water mains.”

Where pipe does needs to be replaced, polyethylene pipe has good flexibility for climate change adaptation along with improved hydraulic performance, Kelly adds.

The water industry is under pressure but should talk up its successes.

Steve Kaye of UKWIR acknowledges that the water industry is under a lot of pressure from government, the press, and the public. But drinking water quality in the UK is the best in the world, he points out. “For me, it’s a positive area. And when I joined the industry in 1990 leakage was 40% – it’s now under 20%,” he adds.

Want more information? The webinar is available to watch on demand here.